Decatur County Historical Society Newsletter

Volume No. 3, Issue No. 1, June/July 2008
 Decatur County Museum

The Museum will be open for the 2008 season starting Memorial Day weekend and will close Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 5:00 p.m. Hours are 1:00 p.m. through 5:00 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday afternoon. For viewing appointments at other times, please contact Bob Bixby at (641) 446-3297. The museum is located in the 100 block of North Main in Leon.

Museum News


Recent donations to the Museum include:

A book titled “Leonard Graves and Rebecca Bingham and Their Descendants” by Susan Wilson Bowen Lane (Unknown Donor) with several Leon families included in the book.

“New Tales of Old Times,” a series of family histories of the Lamoni area by individuals who lived in the early days. Written at the Lamoni Public Library under the direction of Charlotte Gould, Professor of English at Graceland in 1978, donated by M. Lea Scott Hetherington.

Scrapbooks from the Leon VFW.

Records of the Decatur Federation of Woman’s Clubs (1950-2003.)

1999 book “Progressive Men of Iowa”, a history of the state of Iowa and the leaders in business, politics, and other professions, written by ex-Lieutenant Governor B.F. Gue.

A baseball uniform from the early days of Leon baseball with “Hansell Chev. & Oil Co.” written on the back.

Legal Book Donation Update:

The 173 “Iowa Reports” donated to the Museum last fall are a collection of Iowa Supreme Court cases from the July Term, 1839 through 1914. The Supreme Court of Iowa was formed by an act of Congress of June 12, 1838, entitled “An act to divide the territory of Wisconsin, and to establish the territorial government of Iowa.” The original Iowa Supreme Court Justices were Charles Mason, Chief Justice, Joseph Williams and Thomas S. Wilson. They were nominated by the President and served until 1847. In 1847, the Supreme Court Clerk was B.W. Garrett of Decatur County. The first case was heard by the court in July, 1839. The 173 books contain every Iowa Supreme Court case heard, in detail, during the period stated. There are cases from Decatur County and many pertain to the growing of the young state in all 99 counties.

Other Books:

Complete Decatur Tax Books are now downstairs for 1873 and 1897 for all townships. More books will be brought downstairs for easy viewing at desks that have been placed there for that purpose.

Early Decatur County Facts

Decatur County was named for Commodore Stephen Decatur. The land in Decatur County was ceded to create the county to the United States Government by the Sac and Fox Indians in a Treaty dated October 11, 1842. The County of Decatur was officially organized on April 1, 1850. On January 18, 1851, an act of the Iowa Legislature was approved, appointing commissioners and providing for the location of the county seat.

Formation of Towns

Decatur was formed on July 21, 1851 for the purpose of being the county seat and lots were offered for sale on August 25, 1851. Due to controversy concerning the location of the county seat, the General Assembly ordered an election to take place on the first Monday in April, 1853. The town of Independence was chosen by the majority of voters and the county seat was moved. After Buchanan County’s county seat objected, the new town was named South Independence. In the winter of 1894-1895, the Iowa Legislature changed the name to Leon. It has been suggested that the name Leon was suggested by W.H. Cheevers who became attracted to it while serving in the Civil War.

Van Wert was first settled in 1853 and was originally called Florence, then changed to Prairie City, then Prairieville and on April 1, 1880 to Van Wert.

Leon K of P Band 1898
Daniel Bartholow laid out the community of Pleasant Plain in 1854. The name was changed to Pleasanton in a few years.

W.H. Cheevers also laid out the town of Davis City in 1855 and it was named after William Davis who had constructed a log cabin and a sawmill the year before. As the Mormons journeyed west, they stopped in an area for rest and it was named Garden Grove because of its beautiful location. This camp was created on April 24, 1846.

The origin of Lamoni came from the First United Order of Enoch, a corporation composed of a number of men of means connected to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Community of Christ today.) The first report was filed on September 1, 1871 with capital stock of $44,500 and 2,680 acres of land was purchased at a cost of $21,769. With this investment, lots were sold for development of the town and the railroad.

With the building of the Humeston & Shenandoah Railroad in the county in 1880, the town of LeRoy was established in 1880 by E.S. Buffum. Also in 1880 with the same railroad the town of Weldon was created by the railroad with land bought from J.P. Kline. It was incorporated in 1902.

Finally, the town of Grand River was laid out by E.C. Perkins for a corporation then known as The Town Lot Company in 1881, also for the benefit of the Humeston and Shenandoah Railroad. C.H. Chapman suggested the town be named Grand River and it was approved.


Donations to the Decatur County Historical Society and Museum may be sent to:

Great Western Bank

c/o Chet Redman

111 N Main
Leon, Iowa 50144
Checks may be made out to: The Decatur County Museum.

Decatur County Research

Recently, the Decatur County IAGenWeb Site was relocated to the IAGenWeb server from the Rootsweb server because of changes being implemented by (MyFamily) that would have affected our site.

The URL or address for the site has changed but the content is exactly the same. You can find the site now at Decatur County IAGenWeb.
Decatur County Historical Society   ***   Decatur County IAGenWeb