As the population in the river portion of the county increased more rapidly than in the interior, by the growth of the cities and the more dense settlement of the surrounding country, the question of changing the location of the county seat, which had always been a vexed one and never wholly concurred in by the river towns, was, from time to time, agitated. The De Witt Observer, in its issue of January 19, 1866, gives a warning note to its patrons, and the people of De Witt particularly, of the initiatory movement which resulted in the removal of the county seat to the river. It says: "The river folks have been talking of the removal of the county seat to Lyons or Clinton ever since it left Camanche. Heretofore, it has been all talk, and no work; but now it seems that they are at work vigorously, circulating petitions and taking other preliminary steps for its removal to Ringwood (a piece of open country and duck-ponds between Lyons and Clinton). The people down there are in earnest in the matter, and unless De Witters bestir themselves and work faithfully, early and late, the thing will be accomplished."

In its issue of January 2d, notice is given of a county-seat meeting.
In the issue of February 2, the Observer contains the following burlesque petition
To the honorable Board of Supervisors of Clinton County, now running at large:
" Your petitioners would respectfully represent that,

"WHEREAS, The Hogle House (vulgarly called the Jail), in this place, is patronized, to a great extent, by the city of Lyons, an uneasy little village at the Mississippi River, at the extreme eastern end of the county; and,
WHEREAS, There is a numerous brood of attorneys in the aforesaid village who, occasionally, have a tax to pay (for a neighbor), or a case in Court which requires their personal attention, and which is attended with the expense of a journey to the county seat; and,
"WHEREAS, There are a righteous few men there who, for the sake of the public good, would consent to hold an office if the Court House were near enough to them to be convenient; and,
"WHEREAS, There are a few persons there who, to make capital for, and those who seek to promote the public good by being willing to sacrifice themselves and their friends, and, if not stayed, will surely rush to destruction and future oblivion; and.
"WHEREAS, It is of no consequence to the inhabitants of the western end of the county how far they will have to travel, or at what expense, as they are nothing but mudsills of society and spend their own money; therefore,

"To save feelings and promote the interests of the inhabitants of the aforesaid village of Lyons; to save them from anguish by day and nightmare o' nights; to spare their pockets in the matter of railroad fares, and to gratify their laudable desire to promote the public good and save expense to the county at large, your petitioners would pray that you take into consideration and submit it to a vote of the people whether—as the town of Elvira is sufficiently near for a short buggy ride from Lyons—the county seat be not re-located at the flourishing town of Elvira, or whether, as a matter of compromise, we cannot surmount the difficulty and gratify their ambition of serving the public by removing the Hogle House (yeleped Jail) to the village of Lyons, and. thus divide the honors in the manner that they will most appreciate."

On the other hand, a movement had begun in Lyons to inaugurate measures to bring about a vote upon the question of a removal of the county seat to Ringwood. Some discussion and expression of opinion was had, and the field was looked over, but no active steps were taken, and the project slumbered, although not a dreamless sleep, for visions of the coming contest were frequent and vivid.

In the spring of 1869, the question, which had lain apparently dormant, began to assume an active shape again. The agitation came principally from among the attorneys of both cities, and through their discussion of the subject, and the possibilities of success, the public interest began to gather strength. The first fundamental step to be taken, was to decide upon the point of location. The rivalry between the two cities, which in the past had been carried on with more or less acrimony, and, as many residents in either city felt, greatly to the detriment of each, made it a question of grave doubt whether the common good of both could be made to appear so vital as to bury old antagonisms and present selfishness and local pride. Semi-official committees from Lyons and Clinton held mutual conferences. At the outset, Lyons selected the location at Ringwood, and Clinton named De Witt Park. Of course, no agreement to either location could be reached. Block 10, in Clinton, was then named by the Clinton representatives.

At a meeting of the City Council of Clinton, held March 24, 1869, a special committee of three was appointed to confer with Lyons with reference to the time and place for a joint meeting of the two cities, then to consider the propriety and expediency of removing the county buildings. This seems to have been the first official or formal action on the part of the movers in this enterprise. This committee at the Council meeting on the 29th instant reported progress, and asked further time. On the 14th of April, the various conferences between committees constituted by authority and committees self-constituted, resulted in a public meeting of Clintonians, pursuant to call, which was held at Union Hall, on the 14th of April, 1869, to take into consideration the Court House question and its location.

At this meeting, the Committee, previously appointed by the City Council, made a report which was substantially, that Lyons proposed as her choice of location the slope near Mr. Felch's residence in Ringwood ; while Clinton proposed as her choice Block 10, which location was opposed as low and unfit for the purpose. After discussion of the questions before the meeting, the following resolutions were offered

"The people of. Clinton in mass-meeting assembled, believing that the time has come when the cities of Clinton and Lyons can afford to bury all dissensions and jealousies, and believing that it is for the interest of the people of both cities to labor for the union of the two, with the view of forming one large commercial and manufacturing center, and ultimately organizing under a single corporation; and, being influenced solely by these objects, we present the following propositions

"First—That the two cities unite with those towns favorable to the project, in removing the county seat to Block 10, North Clinton ; that we guarantee that said block, containing between four and five acres of ground, shall be donated to the county for the purpose of erecting the necessary public buildings thereon; and, that the city of Clinton will grade, fill and properly improve Second street, to the north line of the city of Clinton; that upon the removal of the county seat, we agree to furnish, in the city of Clinton, free of charge, convenient apartments for holding court, and for the use of the county officers until such time as the county buildings shall be erected and ready for occupancy ; Provided, the time this petition of said proposition is to run shall not exceed three years and that we will guarantee a contribution of $10,000 toward the erection of said county buildings; Provided, the citizens of Lyons will guarantee a contribution, for the same purpose, of $5,000, or in like proportion should any other sum be agreed upon.

"Second—Believing the location of the county seat at the point herein named will materially advance the progress of those projected railroads which are to have their terminus at the center hereinbefore contemplated, and that the construction of roads which now lag for the want of means to push them forward, and have a new impetus given them by the removal of said county seat; we, as citizens, encouraged by such removal, will do all in our power, by contributions of material aid and otherwise, to hasten the completion of such roads.

"Third—Believing that the construction of a Worse-railroad between Clinton and Lyons will tend to the advantage and prosperity of both cities, and serve essentially in wiping out the conflicting local interests which might appear to exist, we agree to co-operate jointly with the citizens of Lyons in the construction of such a road as the necessities of the two cities may seem to demand.

"Fourth—That a committee of five be appointed by the President of this meeting, to co-operate with a similar committee appointed by the people of Lyons, to carry out, as far as the same can be done, the propositions herein contained." These resolutions were separately passed upon and adopted by nearly an unanimous vote, and the committee appointed in accordance therewith.

On the 19th of April, a mass-meeting of the citizens of Clinton, together with a delegation from Lyons, was held at Union Hall.

The Committee of Conference made a report, stating that the committees from each city met upon Block 10, Clinton, and discussed the question of location, and finally came to an agreement, by compromise, that they would jointly name Block 8, Clinton, as the proposed site for the Court House.
In the mean time, public meetings had been held in Lyons, and at one of these meetings the following report and resolutions had been introduced and adopted:" The Committee appointed by the City Council and citizens of Lyons City to confer with a committee appointed by the citizens of Clinton, upon the propriety of taking action upon the removal of the county seat to some point between Lyons and Clinton, and to designate such point, subject to the endorsement of the citizens, beg leave to make the following report:

"At the first session of the Joint Committee of the two places, no site was definitely agreed upon satisfactory to all the members of the Committee, and, on motion, an adjournment was had for the purpose of further consultation with the citizens."

Afterward, a public meeting was held at Clinton, at which resolutions were passed. which are herewith submitted.

"On the 15th inst., the Committee again met, on ground in the vicinity of the proposed sites, land, after due deliberation, agreed upon Block 8, North Clinton, as the site upon which the people of the two cities would unite, subject to the ratification by the people.

"The Committee adjourned to the 16th inst., at the Central House, in Clinton, and at that time and place it was considered by the Committee that the two cities might be united upon Block 8 as the site for county buildings, provided this block shall be donated by the Iowa Land Company for this purpose; and provided further, to wit:

"First—That the city of Clinton will grade Second street, to the northern limits of the city, and also Block 8, to above high-water mark.

"Second—That the citizens of Lyons and Clinton will grant the right of way, to some company which shall be organized for that purpose, to construct a street railway on Second street, in Clinton, and Sixth street, in Lyons, between the depot of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway in Clinton, and Main street in Lyons, with the right of way for such extensions as the accommodation of the citizens may require.

"The Lyons members then stated to the Committee that, inasmuch as the citizens of Lyons had undertaken, with the people of Maquoketa and others. on the line of the road, the building of the Mississippi, Maquoketa & Northwestern Railroad, and as the construction of such road would greatly enhance the prosperity of both towns and the entire county ; and inasmuch as the citizens of Clinton, in mass-meeting assembled, had intimated their willingness to aid in that enterprise, they asked that this Committee adopt a further proviso, that the citizens of Clinton subscribe at least $40,000 to the capital stock of said railroad company.

"The Lyons members further represented that such action on the part of the citizens of Clinton would promote harmony among the people of Lyons, and reconcile them to the concession of adopting said block as the site for the county buildings. This proviso was incorporated, subject to ratification, as follows:

"Third—That the citizens of Clinton shall subscribe $40,000 to the capital stock of the Mississippi, Maquoketa & Northwestern Railroad Company, and as much as possible, and use their influence to secure the immediate commencement and early completion of the work."
This action of the Joint Committee was indorsed by the citizens of Lyons.

Upon motion, the first and third resolutions above were ratified by this meeting of the 19th inst., and a committee appointed to canvass for subscriptions to the capital stock of the railroad, and the Joint Committee was continued and empowered to appoint such committees as they deemed necessary to canvass the county for signatures to the petition for re-location of the county seat.

Public notice was duly given on the 3d of May that a petition would be presented to the Board of Supervisors, at their next meeting, for a re-location of the county seat. Up to this time, the opponents of the removal had taken little alarm, their firm opinion being, and perhaps with good grounds, that Clinton and Lyons would never so fully concede their grounds of difference and bury their animosities as to become faithful allies. Indeed, for a time the movement was seriously endangered through these very causes. Many citizens of Clinton demanded that the right of way for the street railway should be contingent upon the casting by Lyons of proportionately as large a vote in favor of the removal to Block 8 as might be cast by Clinton. This was a sort of "hostage" demanded for good faith, and must have provoked a smile of contentment over the situation upon the faces of the citizens of De Witt and her friends. That this should engender hot blood was natural, and the more cool and amicable heads in both communities found ample opportunity to exercise their talent in "pouring oil" upon troubled waters.

However, at a public meeting held May 14, the Mayor, by resolution, was requested to issue his proclamation calling a special election to have an expression of the citizens of Clinton upon this vexed question. The election was so ordered, and held on the 17th of May, 1869, and resulted in a favorable expression, the vote being 718 in favor of tile immediate passage of an ordinance giving right of way for a street railway, and 189 votes opposed ; and on the 27th of the same month, the ordinance was passed. Thus the various differences between the two cities were harmoniously compromised, and the work of securing the required number of signatures was being rapidly pushed.

The opponents of the change now took alarm, and the county was alive with "colporteurs ' soliciting signatures to petition and to remonstrance. The friends of the measure, however, secured the requisite number of signatures, and, at the June meeting, 1869, of the Board of Supervisors, presented the same for their action. The special committee to whom the matter was referred on the, second day of the session, June 8, reported that they had examined the petitions for the "re-location of the county seat to and upon Block 8, in the North Addition to the city of Clinton, in said county," and found that 3,565 legal voters had signed said petitions as authenticated by the affidavits of credible witnesses, and that they constituted more than half of the legal voters, and recommended that their prayer be granted, and an election according to law, and the committee offered a resolution that, at the next general election, to be held on the second Tuesday of October, 1869, a vote should be-taken upon the question, which was carried by the following vote: 19 ayes. 2 nays. The vote indicated that the opponents had resolved to accept the situation gracefully, and make a vigorous canvass before the people, and they did. 

The campaign now opened with earnestness. Every argument pro and con that could be originated in the regions of fact or the realms of fancy, was hurled at the startled voters. Circular sheets supplemented the press until the county was thatched with these missives. Bonds, "deeds in escrow," and various other documents were brought, like heavy artillery, into position to batter down that strongest fortification, the fear of taxation. Visions of a $300,000 Court House were flashed over the county like the dissolving views of a camera. Pictures of a limpid sheet of water, labeled Block 8, with patient anglers sitting on its shores, told the story more strongly than words of what the new location would be.

Such an election was never before nor since held in Clinton County. Presidential contests were tame and flavorless compared with this. The result of the election was a majority of 511 votes in favor of the re-location of the county seat on Block 8, with a total vote of 5,817.

At the October meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the officers -were ordered to remove their offices as soon as practicable. A stock company was at once organized and funds provided by citizens of Clinton and Lyons for the erection of a suitable building for the use of the county, in order that the session of the District Court, set for November 21, might convene on Block 8. Plans were made by W. W. Sanborn, bids advertised for, and Mr. L. P. Haradon awarded the contract on the 18th day of October, at the price of $3,200, the building to be completed within thirty days, and in twenty-three days after the date of his contract, he delivered the building complete for occupancy, and on the 21st day of November, the Court House was occupied by the first session of the District Court in Clinton.

This Court House was a neat two-story frame structure, 44x52 feet in size, and divided on the ground floor into offices for the Recorder, Clerk of the Courts, Auditor and Treasurer. The second floor contained the court-room, the jury-room and two smaller rooms for Sheriff and District Attorney. This building was furnished free of charge to the county for three years, was then rented of the stockholders, and was subsequently purchased by the county at about seventy-five per cent of its original cost. It has been repaired, and a fire-proof vault built for the use of the Auditor.

A fire-proof brick building was erected west of the Court House, 4lx42 feet, and fourteen feet in the clear, and divided into two offices, one occupied by the County Recorder and the other by the Clerk of the Courts. This is a convenient and permanent building, erected at a cost of $5,000.

The jail and jailor's residence at De Witt are still occupied by the county, which has also a number of cells in conjunction with the city of Clinton in its building, for convenience in confining prisoners during court term. The old Court House is practically unoccupied.

To quote from the report of 1879, of the Board of' Supervisors:

"The Board are happy to say that the financial standing of Clinton County is one of the best in State of Iowa, and we hope it will always continue so. Clinton County has been fortunate in not issuing any railroad-aid bonds like many other counties, creating a heavy load for their citizens to carry; yet Clinton County has more miles of railroad than any other county in the State of Iowa. Neither have the people of Clinton County burdened themselves with debt by building a great, unwieldy, cumbersome Court House, and, although our present Court House is not a very permanent structure, yet it is more convenient for the transaction of business than some more expensive ones; and,. since the fire-proof vault was constructed, the past year, the more important records of the county are safe. And, should the people of Clinton County come to the conclusion to build a new Court House, at the present prices of labor and material, they could build a better Court House and a handsomer one for $30,000 than any $100,000 Court House there is in the State, if the money is honestly and judiciously handled; and the county being possessed of 2,773 acres of land in other. counties, this land might be sold for enough, or nearly enough, to build a Court House, without costing the taxpayers one cent. The county has a block in Clinton City of six acres, for county buildings; the Poor Farm consists of 240 acres, the property of the county, and the county has 40 acres of land near De Witt, which it had to take on the foreclosure of a school mortgage."

SOURCE: Allen, L. P., History of Clinton County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, it's Cities, Towns, Etc. and Biographical Sketches of Citizens, War Record of it's Volunteers in the late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Clinton County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c, &c., Illustrated. Chicago IL; Western Historical Company, 1879


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