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Delaware County, Iowa


History Center



A Brief History of Delaware County

Taken from History of County Governments in Iowa,

published in 1992 by the Iowa State Association of Counties, Des Moines, Iowa


Delaware County was either named in honor of Senator John Middleton Clayton's native state, or it was named after Thomas McCraney's home county in New York state. McCraney was a member of the first Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Wisconsin.

The first county seat was located at Eads' Grove. The town was named Elizabeth, in honor of Mrs. Elizabeth Bennet, the first woman settler of the county. The residents of the county were extremely dissatisfied with this location. They obtained the permission to choose another site, and the site they chose was Delhi.

The choosing of Delhi as the county seat is rather interesting. The selecting committee wanted to locate the county seat in the geographical center of the county, but there was no timber or water in the center of the county. After visiting several locations, the committee was approaching the site of Delhi. Suddenly a deer sprang up and ran off. It was suggested that they kill the deer and stake a site at that location. This was done, and Delhi became the county seat.

Four long years passed before the county could raise the $200 needed to purchase the land for the county seat. Finally two residents of the county offered to loan the county the $200. The county sold county orders at 50 cents on the dollar to reimburse the two residents.

In the winter of 1843-1844 a hickory log courthouse was built at Delhi. This courthouse was the first building erected in the county seat. Another courthouse was built in the early 1850s, but it soon became too small for county business.

A new county building was erected in 1857. The cost of the two-story brick structure was $5,000. The architecture was of unique style. It was said to "resemble some battlements of the feudal ages, without possessing any of their beauty or grandeur."

A battle over the county seat developed between Manchester and Delhi. Several elections were held over the location of the county seat. Manchester failed all them, except the last one held on November 2, 1880.

Following this election, the citizens of Manchester quickly constructed a two-story frame courthouse, complete with a vault. This building was a temporary structure, and a more elaborate building was constructed in 1894. The red brick building cost $36,860 to build, not including $800 for plumbing. Seven hundred county citizens bought a clock that was placed in the tower in 1895. This courthouse, the fourth for Delaware County, was dedicated on January 7, 1895.