Decatur County Court House

210 N. Main St., Leon, Iowa 50133
  • Decatur County Recorder, Decatur County Courthouse
  • 207 N. Main St., Leon IA 50133
    Phone: 641-446-4322 Fax: 641-336-7159
    Office open Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. CST
  • Decatur County Assessor's Office
    207 N. Main St., Leon IA 501
    Phone: 641-446-4314, Fax: 641-446-8632; Email:
    Office open Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. CST
  • Decatur County Clerk of Court
    Decatur County Courthouse, 207 N. Main St., Leon IA 50133
    Phone: 641-446-4331
    Office open Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. CST

1850 - Decatur County organized, divided into four townships of Garden Grove, Morgan, Burrell and Hamilton. The county was named for Commodore Stephen DECATUR, Jr. (1779 - 1820), U.S. Naval hero of the War of 1812 and Congressional Gold Medal recipient.

1850 - Board of County Commissioners held first meeting, commissioners were Josiah MORGAN, William HAMILTON, Asa BURRELL and clerk Henry B. NOSTON. First order of business was allowing Andrew STILL $30 as acting organizing sheriff.

1851 - Decatur City laid out and county seat was located here. Decatur City was located along the main road from Fort Des Moines to Independence, Missouri.

1851 - First district court convened at Daniel MOAD'S home, Decatur City, with Judge William McKAY, Clerk Daniel MOAD, and Sheriff John J. STANLEY.

April, 1853 - By Iowa General Assembly order, an election was held to decide once again the location of the county seat. Majority of the vote was in favor for removing the county seat to a more centralized location and the new town was named Independence, later changed to South Independence since there was another Iowa settlement of that name. In compliance with a petition of the citizens, the Legislature changed the county seat's name to Leon in the winter of 1854-55.


Vital Records at the Courthouse

Birth Book A
From 1880 - 1884
Birth Book B
From 1885 - 1894
Birth Book C
From 1894 - 1897
Birth Book D
From 1897 - 1908
Birth Book 2
From 1909 - 1917
Birth Book 3
From 1918 - 1924
Birth Book 4
From 1925 - 1938
Birth Book 5
From 1939 - 1949
Birth Book 6
From 1949 - 1957
Birth Book 1
1850 - First marriage license issued to Henry HALL and Eliza Ann EWING.

1851 - First court case was a suit for divorce, John BLADES v Maria BLADES.

1852 - First marriage, R. M. McBROOM to Susan WITNERS, Justice of Peace Hiram CHASE officiating.
Marriage Book 1
From 1875 - 1879
Marriage Book 2
From 1879 - 1883
Marriage Book A
From 1880 - 1894
Marriage Book 3
From 1883 - 1887
Marriage Book 4
From 1887 - 1891
Marriage Book 5
From 1891 - 1895
Marriage Book 7
From 1893 - 1902
Marriage Book B
From 1894 - 1902
Marriage Book 6
From 1895 - 1898
Marriage Book 8
From 1902 - 1905
Marriage Book 9
From 1905 - 1909
Marriage Book 10
From 1909 - 1913
Marriage Book 11
From 1913 - 1917
Marriage Book 12
From 1917 - 1921
Marriage Book 13
From 1921 - 1926
Marriage Book 14
From 1926 - 1933
Marriage Book 15
From 1933 - 1940
Marriage Book 16
From 1940 - 1950
Marriage Book 17
From 1950 - 1953
Marriage Book 18
From 1953 - 1958
Marriage Book 19
From 1958 - 1967
Marriage Book 20
From May 1967 - May 1975
Marriage Book 21
From May 1975 - Jul 1979
Death Book A
From 1880 - 1895
Death Book B
From 1883 - 1897
Death Book C
From 1897 - 1914
Death Book D
From 1906 - 1913
Death Book D2
From 1914 - 1921
Death Book 1
From 1918 - 1928
Death Book 2
From 1928 - 1948
Death Book 3
From May 1948 - Dec 1948
Death Book 4
From 1949 - 1964
Death Book 5
From 1964 - 1984
Probate/Wills Book 1
Probate/Wills Book 2
Probate/Wills Book 3
Probate/Wills Book 4
From 1892 - 1952
Probate/Wills Book 5
Probate/Wills Book 6
Probate/Wills Book 7
From 1919 - 1926
Probate/Wills Book 8
Probate/Wills Book 9
Case files #3317 - #3849
Probate/Wills Book 10
Case files #3850 - #4423
Probate/Wills Book 11
Case files #4424 - #5053

Decatur County Court House History

1851 - First courthouse, 20x22 feet and 14 feet high, built by John J. STANLEY out of hewed logs for $375 at Decatur City.

1854 - Outgrowing the first courthouse, construction began on a new courthouse, small in structure, which was declared to be unstable soon after it was built. Construction began on another courthouse that was was demolished by a wind storm before it had been completed. Second courthouse that was actually utilized, 24x40 feet and two stories high, was built of brick by Arnold CHILDERS and F. PARSONS for $1,700. Townships increased to 16.

1856 - First jail made of logs was built at a cost of $1,800.

1866 - County poor farm established.

1874 - Second courthouse burned; all county records were lost in the fire.

1875 - Third courthouse of brick was built at a cost of $20,000.
 The Leon Journal-Reporter
1838 - Iowa Territorial Centennial Edition - 1938
Decatur County's Representative Family Newspaper
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, July 14, 1938, Page 5


By Idavee Crouse

Evolution of the courts provides an interesting page in Decatur county history.

The roster of the Decatur county bar through the last century is marked by brilliant members who have risen to high places in the state and nation.

"Court's in Session"

Back in the lively old days of the horse and buggy and the familiar hitching post, "Court's in session" was an expression which meant excitement and entertainment to the grizzled pioneers. A political campaign or a term of court during the stagecoach days were looked forward to with much eagerness and anticipation as a mixture of entertainment, love of justice and fun. Consequently, these were according first place in the calendar as sources of amusement.

Cabin of Logs

How and where the first court was held in Decatur county may be a matter of dispute among historians. But it was not long after the logs of the first home were erected that law came to Decatur county. Justice was administered to pioneers in pioneer fashion. The first courthouse was a cabin of logs. A crude bench faced those who sought justice.

The bar of those days was composed chiefly of bright young men from the farm or the lowly walks of life, who supplemented their native wit and their ambition with a little schooling followed by a rough and tumble experience in the civil war, and a year or two of reading law in an old lawyer's office. Usually the lawyer would assist the young man to pass the examinations then required for admission to the bar. Some of the would-be lawyers who were fortunate in saving a little money from their salary of $13 a month as a solider, would attend the state university for a year of law.

The starvation period of ten years followed. Usually the new attorney would ask some girl to share this with him. And the pioneers girls of strong courage were brave enough to face this adventure with the man of her choice.

As the Years Pass

The [present-day] fireproof brick courthouse stands as a living memorial in the first chapter of Decatur county court and the judicial system established. Pages of Decatur county history are filled with the progressive spirit of the pioneers who settled in this county and courageously overcame hardships to clear a glorious path out a vast prairie for the development of this great country.

The Leon Journal-Reporter
1838 - Iowa Territorial Centennial Edition - 1938
Decatur County's Representative Family Newspaper
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, July 14, 1938, Page 2


The west side of the old courthouse that stood for many years where the present fine county building stands, was blown out on Sunday morning, April 1, 1877, when an attempt was made to burglarize the county treasurer's safe.

The thieves had gained entrance to the treasurer's office by tearing up the floor. They first tunneled into the vault in the recorder's office, thinking they were in the treasurer's vault. They had spent a good part of the night in this work, apparently, and seeing the time was short they placed a charge of powder under the safe in the treasurer's vault and touched it off. The heavy charge blew the side out of the building but did not open the safe. The explosion occurred about 5 o'clock in the morning.

Many people thought someone was playing an April fool joke and paid no attention to the explosion. They later found it was no joke.

W. W. Van SCHAICK and a woman with him were arrested at Osceola by Sheriff BLACKUS and Deputy Sheriff LINDSEY and returned to Leon. Howard REED was found asleep over Van SCHAICK'S tin shop. Clews had placed the two under suspicion. The woman, aged about 18 years, confessed [to] the robbery plot. Van SCHAIK and REED served six-year terms in the penitentiary at Fort Madison for the crime.

Francis VARGA, father of Stephen VARGA of Leon, was county treasurer at the time.

From "An Interesting Early History of Decatur County", Chapter 25, Mrs. O. N. (Harriett) KELLOGG wrote:

"Leon, Iowa, April 1, 1877

"Dear Ones,

"The citizens of Leon have had a dreadful April fooling this morning. Just about daylight there was a sound heard which the people in town thought to be some rowdy trying to get up a scare for the day and those more remote took to be thunder, as it had been a blustering night. But a few people immediately upon the square soon found out the truth, which was the whole west side of the court house was blown out . . .

"The court house is almost an utter wreck. Three walls are standing and the roof remains, but two of the remaining walls are cracked, and all the supports and graces are torn from under the roof. The floor of the courtroom was swaying and swaying and a great part of the furniture was down in the ruin. It is supposed that the burglars had been at work trying to open the safe all night and, that morning approaching, they resolved to blow it open but, being novices, caused a much greater explosion than they intended and were obliged to leave without getting anything for their ill bestowed pains. The safe had not yet been reached by the excavators when we came away, being buried in the thickest of the rubbish and the wind blowing such a gale that men hardly dared venture into the ruin.

"Mr. Varga had recovered many of his books but said they had been much mutilated by the depredators. If the vault had been as securely locked as the safe, it is probable they would have given up the undertaking as hopeless and retreated doing little or no damage, but Mr. Varga says he had only closed the door and the bolt without using the combination and locking up, intending to go right back after supper and have occasion to go in again, but for some cause he did not return. The safe is the same one that came through the fire three years ago, night before last, and Murray says the seams were slightly open and the burglars thought they certainly could and would get at the contents in one way or another. They did not get a cent of money, even the box of change outside the safe escaped their notice."

1877 - Third courthouse was blown up by thieves. Courthouse was rebuilt.

1884 - New jail was built at a cost of $12,000. Located off the northeast corner of the square.

1907 - Present-day courthouse was built using iron, stone, steel, tile brick, marble and granite in its construction.

1981 - Decatur County's Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Contributed by Nancee (McMurtrey) Seifert
Contributed by Sharon Becker

Contributed by Sherry Balow
Decatur County IAGenWeb