A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Volume 1
Chicago, Illinois
The Pioneer Publishing Company




When President Jefferson, on March 1, 1804, approved an act of Congress providing for the exercise of sovereignty over Louisiana, the territory now comprising the County of Emmet came for the first time under the official control of the United States. That act provided that from and after October 1, 1804, all that part of the province lying south of the thirty-third parallel of north latitude should be known as the Territory of Orleans, and the country north of that parallel as the District of Louisiana. In the latter was included the present State of Iowa. The District of Louisiana was placed under the jurisdiction of the Territory of Indiana, of which Gen. William H. Harrison was then governor.

On July 4, 1805, the District of Louisiana was organized as a separate territory, with a government of its own. In 1812 the Territory of Orleans was admitted into the Union as the State of Louisiana and the name of the upper district was changed to the Territory of Missouri. In 1821 the State of Missouri was admitted into the Union with its present boundaries, and the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase was left without any form of civil government whatever. No one seems to have given the matter any serious thought at the time, as the only white people in the territory were a few wandering hunters, trappers and the agents of the different fur companies, all of whom were most interested in the profits of their occupations than they were in establishing permanent settlements and paying taxes.

The first white settlement within the border of the present State of Iowa was founded in 1788 by Julien Dubuque, where the city bearing his name now stands. Eight years later Louis Honore Tesson received from


the Spanish governor of Louisiana a grant of land "at the head of the Des Moines Rapids of the Mississippi" in what is now Lee County. About the close of the Eighteenth Century French traders established posts along the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers. In the fall of 1808 Fort Madison was built by order of the war department where the city of that name is now located, and in the early '20s a trading house and small settlement were established upon the site of the present City of Keokuk.

The titles of Dubuque and Tesson were afterward confirmed by the United States Government, but with these exceptions no settlement was legally made in Iowa prior to June 1, 1833, when the title to the Black Hawk Purchase became fully vested in the United States. A few settlers had ventured into the new purchase before that date, and Burlington was founded in the fall of 1832, soon after the treaty with, the Sacs and Foxes ceding the Black Hawk Purchase. On June 1, 1833, a large number of immigrants crossed the Mississippi to establish claims. It therefore became necessary for the national administration to establish some form of government over a region that had lain beyond the pale of civil authority for some twelve years.

On June 28, 1834, President Jackson approved an act of Congress attaching the present State of Iowa to the Territory of Michigan, which then included all the country from Lake Huron westward to the Missouri River. By this act Iowa came under the jurisdiction of Michigan. The first counties in Iowa ‐ Dubuque and Des Moines ‐ were created by an act of the Michigan Legislature in September, 1834. The former included all that portion of the state lying north of a line drawn due west from the foot of Rock Island, and the latter embraced all south of that line. The present Emmet County was therefore once a part of the County of Dubuque.

On April 20, 1836, President Jackson approved the act creating the Territory of Wisconsin, to take effect on July 4, 1836. Gen. Henry Dodge was appointed governor of the new territory, which embraced the present State of Wisconsin and all the country west of the Mississippi River formerly included in Michigan. Hence, on Independence Day in 1836, Iowa passed from the jurisdiction of Michigan to that of Wisconsin. Pursuant to Governor Dodge's proclamation, the first election ever held on Iowa soil was held on October 3, 1836, for members of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature.


Early in the fall of 1837 the question of dividing the Territory of Wisconsin and establishing a new territory west of the Mississippi became a subject of engrossing interest to the people living west of the river. The


sentiment in favor of a new territory found definite expression in a convention held at Burlington on November 3, 1837, which adopted a memorial to Congress asking for the erection of a new territory west of the Mississippi. In response to this expression of popular sentiment, Congress passed an act, which was approved by President Van Buren on June 12, 1838, dividing Wisconsin and establishing the Territory of Iowa, the boundaries of which included "all that part of the Territory of Wisconsin which lies west of the Mississippi River and west of a line drawn due north from the headwater or sources of the Mississippi to the northern boundary of the territory of the United States."

The act became effective on July 3, 1838. In the meantime President Van Buren had appointed Robert Lucas, of Ohio, as the first territorial governor William B. Conway, of Pennsylvania, secretary; Charles Mason, of Burlington, chief justice; Thomas S. Wilson, of Dubuque, and Joseph Williams, of Pennsylvania, associate justices; Isaac Van Allen, district attorney. The white people living west of the Mississippi now had a government of their own, though by far the greater part of the new territory was still in the hands of the Indians.


During the ten years following the opening of the Black Hawk Purchase to white settlement the pioneers extended the field of their operations rapidly westward and in 1843 Fort Des Moines was built upon the site of the present capital of the state. On February 12, 1844, fifteen years before Emmet County was organized, the Iowa Legislature, acting under the authority and with the consent of the Federal Government, passed an act providing for the election of delegates to a constitutional convention. The convention met at Iowa City on October 7, 1844, and finished its work on the first day of November. The constitution framed by this convention was submitted to the people at an election held on August 4, 1845, and was rejected by a vote of 7,656 to 7,235.

A second constitutional convention assembled at Iowa City on May 4, 1846, and remained in session for two weeks. The constitution adopted by this second convention was submitted to the people at the general election on August 3, 1846, when it was ratified by a vote of 9,492 to 9,036. It was also approved by Congress and on December 28, 1846, President Polk affixed his signature to the bill admitting Iowa into the Union as a state.

In quite a number of the older counties of the state settlements were made before the boundaries of the county were defined by law or a name adopted. Not so with the County of Emmet. At the time of the admission of the state in December, 1846, there were but few organized coun‐


ties west of the Red Rock line as established by the treaty of October 11, 1842. In December, 1837, while Iowa was still under the jurisdiction of Wisconsin, the Legislature of that territory created Fayette County, which was probably the largest county ever erected in the United States. It extended from the Mississippi River west to the White Earth River and north to the British possessions, embracing nearly all the present State of Minnesota, Northwestern Iowa and all of North and South Dakota east of the White Earth and Missouri rivers, with a total area of 140,000 square miles. Emmet County was by that act made a part of the County of Fayette.


On January 15, 1851, Gov. Stephen Hempstead approved an act of the Iowa Legislature creating fifty new counties out of the unorganized territory in the western part of the state. Section 47 of that act reads as follows:

"That the following shall be the boundaries of a new county which shall be called Emmett, to wit: Beginning at the northwest comer of township 97 north, range 30 west; thence north to the north boundary line of the state; thence west on said boundary line to the northwest corner of township 100 north, range 34 west; thence south to the southwest corner of township 98 north, range 34; thence east to the place of beginning."

The boundaries as thus defined are identical with the boundaries of the county at the present time. The county was named for Robert Emmet, the celebrated Irish orator and patriot, though it will be noticed that in the organic act the name is spelled with two "t's." This form of spelling was continued for several years before the present and correct form was adopted.

None of the counties created by the act of 1851 was organized for some time after the passage of that act. Scattered over the vast territory of the fifty new counties was a solitary settler, here and there, but in none of them was the inhabitants numerous enough to justify a county organization. For judicial and election purposes the unorganized counties were attached to some of the older and regularly organized ones, Emmet County being attached to Webster. But a tide of immigration was pouring into Iowa and on January 12, 1853, Governor Hempstead approved an act containing the following provisions:

"Whenever the citizens of any unorganized county desire to have the same organized, they may make application by petition in writing, signed by a majority of the legal voters of said county, to the county judge of the county to which such unorganized county is attached, whereupon the said county judge shall order an election for county officers in such unorganized county.


"A majority of the citizens of any county, after becoming so organized, may petition the district judge in whose judicial district the same is situated, during the vacation of the General Assembly, whose duty it shall be to appoint three commissioners from three different adjoining counties, who shall proceed to locate the county seat for such county, according to the provisions of this act."


At the time of the passage of the above mentioned acts of 1851 and 1853, respectively defining the boundaries and providing for the organization of the new counties, there was not a single permanent white settler within the borders of Emmet County. In June, 1856, Jesse Coverdale and George C. Granger located in what is now Emmet Township, taking claims for themselves and four of their friends whom they expected within a short time. These four were William Granger, Henry and Adolphus Jenkins and D. W. Hoyt, who arrived before the summer was far advanced and began the work of establishing homes. The first house in the county was built by George. C. Granger, who brought a small stock of goods, consisting of such staple articles as were most likely to be needed in a frontier settlement, and opened the first store.

Not long after these six men came Robert E. and A. H. Ridley, from Maine, and the Graves family from Winneshiek County, who settled in the vicinity of the present City of Estherville. About the middle of August, 1856, John Rourke located at Island Grove, in what is now High Lake Township. His wife is said to have been the first white woman to become a resident of the county, and his son Peter, born on January 4, 1857, was the first white child to claim Emmet County as his birthplace.

James Maher and the Conlans came shortly after Rourke and settled in the same locality. It seems that a Frenchman had previously attempted to establish a settlement at Island Grove, or at least had a rendezvous there. What became of him is something of a mystery. It is supposed that he was killed or driven off by the Indians, but at any rate he left there a number of implements, among which was a grindstone. This was found and mounted by James Maher and proved quite a boon to the pioeers. The southern part of Island Grove was sometimes called "Robbers' Grove," from the fact that a gang of outlaws had a camp there. Disguised as Indians these bandits would make raids upon the settlers and carry off their property. On one occasion they robbed Patrick Conlan, but Pat possessed the true Irish fighting blood, so he armed himself with an old "pepper-box" revolver, made a descent upon the outlaws' camp and forced them to disgorge. A little later the gang departed for a more congenial climate.


A man named Harshman settled in Emmet County in the fall of 1856, and his son, Joseph Harshman, was the only resident of Emmet killed at the time of the Spirit Lake massacre in Dickinson County. On March 8, 1857, the youth went to the settlement at the "Lakes" with a hand sled for some flour. That day Inkpaduta and his band of bloodthirsty savages made their descent upon the settlement and Joseph Harshman was one of those who lost their lives.

The winter of 1856-57 was one of great severity and the few settlers in Emmet County suffered hardships that can hardly be described. Fort Dodge was the nearest point from which supplies could be obtained. Wearing snow shoes and drawing hand sleds, some of the pioneers made the long, dreary trip of seventy miles, through an unbroken country, to procure a few of the necessities of life. People of the present generation, who can find such supplies within easy reach, can hardly appreciate the heroism of those men of 1856.

The first postoffice in the county was established at "Emmet" and George C. Granger was appointed postmaster. At that time there was a mail route running from Mankato, Minnesota, via Jackson, Emmet, Spirit Lake, Peterson (then known as the Mead Settlement) , Cherokee and Melbourne to Sioux City. Mail was received by the offices along the route once in every two weeks. Mr. Granger soon resigned and Henry Jenkins was appointed. He held the office until it was discontinued. Emmet County was then without postal service until the office at Estherville was established in 1860, with Adolphus Jenkins as postmaster.


In the fall of 1857 two men came from Mankato, Minnesota, bringing with them a number of traps and supplies for the winter, for the purpose of trapping along the Des Moines River. One of these men was named Dodson and the other was known as "Dutch Charley." Soon after they established their camp, near Emmet Grove, they were joined by a young Englishman named Metricott, who was something of a mystery. He was well educated, dressed well, but never said anjyhing of his past or why he came to America. He might have been a "remittance man" ‐ that is, a scion of some wealthy family in England who received money regularly from his relatives at home.

A little later another camp was established farther down the river, in what is now High Lake Township. Early in the spring of 1858 Metricott left the camp at Emmet Grove, where he had been living with Dutch Charley, to take some supplies to Dodson at the lower camp. He was seen passing the settlement where Estherville now stands, in his canoe, and that was the last time he was ever seen alive. When Dodson failed to


receive the supplies, he went to the upper camp and learned of the Englishman's disappearance. He and Charley sought along the river banks for some trace of their associate, but found nothing to indicate the manner of his disappearance, and came to the conclusion that he had either been killed by the Indians or had gone on down the river. Metricott had left all his clothing and effects at the upper camp, which rendered the theory that he had deserted the two trappers hardly tenable.

Several weeks later A. H. Ridley, Adolphus Jenkins and another man found the body of Metricott on a knoll some distance from the river about two miles south of Estherville. Further search revealed his canoe hidden in a clump of willows. An inquest was held ‐ the first in Emmet County ‐ and efforts were made to solve the problem of the Englishman's death. There were rumors of quarrels having occurred among the three men, but nothing definite could be learned from either Dodson or Dutch Charley, though the latter was suspected of having been Metricott's murderer. Both the trappers insisted that the deed had been committed by Indians or horse thieves and the mystery was never solved.

Dodson and Charley left the county in June, 1858, with their furs and never came back. The latter was killed by the Indians in the uprising of 1862. Dodson entered the army and served as a scout until his death near the close of the Civil war.


Inkpaduta's raid into Iowa and the massacre of the settlers in Dickinson County in March, 1857, caused a number of the settlers of Emmet County to leave the frontier and seek safety in the older counties of the state, some of them leaving Iowa and returning to their old homes east of the Mississippi. A few remained, however, among whom were R. E. Ridley and his wife, who are still living in Estherville. Mrs. Ridley did not see the face of a white woman for more than four months. Que, in his History of Iowa, says a strong stockade was built near the river to protect the settlers from the Sioux Indians and a company of soldiers came up from Fort Dodge. That spring the pioneer farmers kept their trusty rifles within reach as they planted their crops and "kept one eye open" for the Indians. But the spring and summer passed without an attack and toward autumn some of those who had been frightened away returned to their homesteads. ORGANIZING THE COUNTY

Late in the year 1858, the people living in Emmet Couiity grew tired of being attached to Webster and a petition was circulated asking for the organization of Emmet County, according to the provisions of the act of


January 12, 1853. The petition was signed by a majority of the legal voters and was presented to the county judge of Webster County, who ordered an election for county officers to be held on Monday, February 7, 1859. The available authorities differ as to the officers chosen at that election and the destruction of the records by the burning of the courthouse in the fall of 1876 renders it impossible to get the official returns. Gue's History of Iowa and an old Iowa atlas (from which Gue probably copied) say that Adolphus Jenkins was elected county judge; Jesse Coverdale, clerk of the courts ; R. E. Ridley, treasurer and recorder ; A. H. Ridley, sheriff; R. P. Ridley, school superintendent; Henry Jenkins, surveyor. A writer in the Estherville Vindicator, under the pseudonym of "Anon Y. Mous," gives the list of the first county officers as follows: Adolphus Jenkins, county judge; Jesse Coverdale, clerk of the courts; Stanley Weston, treasurer and recorder; D. W. Hoyt, sheriff; Henry Jenkins, surveyor; Robert Z. Swift, drainage commissioner; R. P. Ridley, coroner. There were two tickets in the field at that election, but in the presidential election of 1860 Abraham Lincoln received every vote in the county.


The next step after the election of county officers was to secure the location of the county seat in the manner provided by law. Application was therefore made to Judge A. W. Hubbard, then judge of the district in which Emmet County was situated, to appoint commissioners to select a site for the seat of justice. The act of 1853 provided for the appointment of three commissioners from three adjoining counties, but two men performed the duty in the County of Emmet. They were Lewis H. Smith, of Kossuth, and Orlando C. Howe, of Dickinson. After looking over the county, they decided that Estherville was the most suitable location for the county seat, and the recently elected county officers established their offices in that village.


Some of the people living in the eastern part of the county were not satisfied with the selection of the commissioners. They believed that the seat of justice should have been located nearer the geographical center of the county, but before they could take any action in the matter the authorities entered into a contract for the erection of a court-house at Estherville, as told later on in this chapter. The county was young and in not very good financial circumstances, and the advocates of a county seat nearer the center did not feel like putting the people to the expense of removing and building a new court-house.

The burning of the courthouse in October, 1876, gave these people an


opportunity which they were not slow to grasp. On July 7, 1879, at an adjourned session of the board of supervisors, a petition was presented asking for an election to submit to the voters the question of removing the county seat. At the same time a remonstrance was filed and both petition and remonstrance were laid on the table. The matter was taken up by the board on July 26, 1879, when it was found that fourteen persons had signed both the petition and remonstrance. Striking out these names there were 165 signers to the petition and 151 to the remonstrance. The board then adopted the following:

"Resolved, That the board of supervisors, being satisfied that the said petition is signed by a majority of the legal voters of the county, and that the requirements of the law have been fully complied with, it is therefore ordered that at the next general election to be held in Emmet County, Iowa, the question of relocation of the county seat shall be submitted to vote. And the county auditor is instructed and required to publish the necessary notices required by law to make such election legal and proper."

This resolution was introduced by J. H. Warren. Those voting in the affirmative were J. H. Warren, Matthew Richmond, A. Christopher and Henry Barber, Jesse Coverdale being the only member of the board voting in the negative.

The site selected to be voted upon at the election on October 14, 1879, was the northeast quarter of Section 25, Township 99, Range 33, in the southeast corner of Center Township and on the northwestern shore of Swan Lake. On October 20, 1879, the board of supervisors declared that the new site had been selected by a majority of the voters, and the next day the following order was issued:

"To the auditor, treasurer, clerk of the courts, recorder, sheriff and superintendent of schools of Emmet County, Iowa:

"You are hereby notified that all the provisions of the law relating to the submission of the question of relocation of the county seat of said county have been fully complied with, and that after canvassing the votes cast for and against the relocation of the county seat of Emmet County, it was found that a majority of all the votes cast were for the relocation of the county seat of Emmet County, Iowa, on the northeast quarter of Section 25, Township 99, Range 33, west of the 5th Principal Meridian; and that, therefore, the board of supervisors determined and ordered that the above designated place was and should be the county seat of Emmet County, Iowa, from and after 12 o'clock noon on Tuesday, the 21st day of October, 1879.

"You will therefore take notice that from and after that day and hour you will hold your respective offices at the village of Swan Lake, on the northeast quarter of Section 25, Township 99 north. Range 33 west of the 5th Principal Meridian."


The county officers were not inclined to obey the order to move and on the 25th the auditor was ordered by the board to make a copy of the order of the 21st and turn it over to the sheriff, to be by that officer served on Judge E. R. Duffie, then holding court at Emmetsburg. At the same time Supervisors Warren and Christopher were appointed a committee to procure a writ of mandamus from the District Court compelling the officials to obey the order and remove their offices to Swan Lake. Nothing further was accomplished in the year 1879, but on January 9, 1880, another order to the county officers "to remove at once" was issued by the board. All obeyed except Dr. E. H. Ballard, then county treasurer, who remained at Estherville until the expiration of his term.


In the meantime it was claimed by some of the citizens of the county that the movement for the removal of the county seat had been instigated by non-residents and proceedings were instituted in the courts to test the legality of the election. The case was sent to Cerro Gordo County, where it was still pending in 1882, when a movement was started for the removal of the seat of justice back to Estherville. On June 5, 1882, Soper &asp; Allen, attorneys for R. E. Ridley and others, presented to the board of supervisors a petition signed by 276 legal voters, asking that the question of relocating the county seat at Estherville be submitted to the voters of the county at the next general election. The board granted the petition and ordered the constables of the several townships to post notices in public places notifying the electors that the question would be voted upon at the general election on November 7, 1882. The result of the vote at that election was 348 in favor of relocating the county seat at Estherville and 177 opposed. At that time the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern (now the Rock Island) Railroad was under construction and some of the opponents of Estherville set up the claim of fraud, in that a large number of workmen on the railroad, not residents of the county, voted in favor of that town, but the board of supervisors canvassed the vote and announced the result. The first meeting of the board at Estherville after this election was on January 15, 1883.


Soon after the county was organized in February, 1859, the proper authorities entered into a contract with Logan & Meservey, of Fort Dodge, for the erection of a court-house and school house in Estherville. For erecting these buildings the contractors were to receive "all the swamp and overflowed lands within the county, except those lying in Township 98, Range 33; Township 99, Range 34; and Township 100, Range 34."


The contractors employed Davis & Spinney to build the school house, which was completed in time for a "house-warming" on Christmas Eve, 1860. The "free supper" cooked and furnished for the guests by the good women of the village was long remembered by those who were fortunate enough to participate and was pronounced the best meal ever served in Estherville up to that time. The supper was followed by a "temperance" dance.

In making a contract to pay for the public buildings with swamp and overflowed lands, the authorities of Emmet County followed the example of other counties in Northwestern Iowa. The contract was made in good faith and in order to carry it out the county judge, Adolphus Jenkins, entered into an agreement with C. C. Carpenter, by which the latter was to make a survey or selection of the swamp and overflowed lands within the limits of the county, which, under the acts of Congress belonged to the county. Carpenter made the survey, but the surveyor-general refused to accept it, hence the county failed to obtain title to the lands which the authorities had agreed to transfer to the contractors for building the court-house and school house.

The school house was already completed and work had been commenced upon the court-house when the surveyor-general's decision was promulgated. That official was severely criticized, but criticism would not pay for the buildings. As soon as the contractors learned that the swamp lands in question were not to become the property of the county they stopped work on the court-house. Taking Carpenter's survey as a basis, they obtained a quit claim deed from the county to the lands described therein, and in order to reimburse themselves for the work they had done resorted to methods that were somewhat questionable, to say the least. They established a system of land agencies in the eastern states and disposed of the lands to unsuspecting persons. It is said that they even went so far as to prepare deeds which had enough of the appearance of a genuine warranty deed to hoodwink the purchaser. Of course, the purchaser under such conditions had no title to the land and was fleeced out of the price paid. Some of those who had bought lands through the agencies came to the county as actual settlers and after their arrival discovered that they would have to homestead the land and secure a government title.

Similar transactions occurred in other counties, which gave Northwestern Iowa the reputation of producing fraudulent deeds and conveyances, a stigma under which that section of the state labored for years through no fault of its citizens or public officials, land sharks being in every instance responsible for the doubtful titles.

In the winter of 1871-72 the school house above mentioned was removed to a new location on North Sixth Street, a short distance north of


Des Moines Street, where it was used as a court-house until it was destroyed by fire in October, 1876.


Owing to the litigation over the removal of the county seat to Swan Lake, no court-house was ever built at that place. Soon after the county seat was taken back to Estherville the supervisors took up the subject of erecting some kind of a building in which to transact the county business. On April 4, 1883, a petition asking that the question of borrowing money with which to build a court-house be submitted to the people was filed, and the board adopted the following resolution:

"Resolved, That the petition of E. R. Littell and others as to submitting the question to voters of borrowing money to build a court-house, etc., be laid over until June, when it shall be made the first order of business."

On June 4, 1883, the petition came up for consideration and it was ordered that the question of borrowing a sum of money not exceeding $12,000, bearing a rate of interest not exceeding 6 per cent, and the levying of a tax of not more than three mills on the dollar in any one year, should be submitted to the voters of the county at the general election to be held on October 9, 1883. At the election the proposition was carried by a vote of 259 to 217. On January 12, 1884, the board of supervisors, as a committee of the whole, took the first steps toward procuring plans and specifications for a court-house and jail, and for selecting a location for the building. Foster & Liebe, architects, of Des Moines, were commissioned to prepare plans and the committee of the whole decided to locate the court-house near the center of the public square. On February 29, 1884, the following advertisement appeared in the Northern Vindicator:

"Sealed proposals for the erection of a court-house at Estherville, Emmet County, Iowa, will be received at my office in Estherville until 12 o'clock noon, Tuesday, April 8, 1884. Plans and specifications may be seen at my office on and after March 26th, and prior to that time at the office of Foster and Liebe, architects, Des Moines, Iowa. The right is reserved to reject any or all bids.

"By order of the Board of Supervisors.

"H. W. Halverson,

"County Auditor."

On April 8, 1884, the bids were opened and the contract was awarded to Zerbe Brothers for $11,718, the building to be completed by November 1, 1884. F. E. Allen, Charles Jarvis and Adolphus Jenkins, members of the board of supervisors, were appointed a building committee to super‐ intend the erection of the structure. A little delay occurred in June, on


account of criticisms of the foundation walls. The board then appointed B. Larbig to oversee the stonework, after which the work went on without interruption and on November 22, 1884, the building was accepted by the supervisors. It is still in use, but late in the year 1916 some agitation was started in favor of a new court-house, the business of the county having grown to such an extent that the old one is inadequate to the demands.

On the first floor of the court-house are the offices of the auditor, clerk, recorder and treasurer. The vaults connected with all these offices have become too small to accommodate the accumulation of records. The second floor contains the court room, jury rooms, office of the county super‐ intendent of schools, etc., and in the basement are the jail cells, heating plant, toilet rooms and storage vaults.


At the time the board of supervisors was looking for a location for the court-house in the spring of 1884, the Estherville City Council passed a resolution tendering to the supervisors of Emmet County "as much of the public square of the said City of Estherville as said supervisors deem necessary for the use of Emmet County for a court-house building." The offer was accepted, but was not made a matter of record by the county authorities until April 9, 1896, when the board of supervisors, by resolution, ratified the action of the board of 1884 in accepting "a piece of land fifteen and a half rods wide, extending from Sixth to Seventh streets, through the center of the public square in the City of Estherville."


The first marriage in Emmet County was solemnized on April 29, 1859, when Miss Sophronia A. Ridley became the wife of George Jenkins. The first term of the District Court ever held in the county began at Estherville on May 30, 1862, Judge A. W. Hubbard presiding.

In 1860 the population of the county, according to the United States census, was 105. During the Indian troubles in Minnesota in 1862-63, some of the settlers left the county, but about one hundred people came from Jackson County, Minnesota, and the greater portion of them became permanent settlers in Emmet.

The spring of 1860 was marked by heavy rains which caused all the streams to overflow. The pickerel were "running" at the time of the freshet and myriads of the fish found their way into some of the lakes. When the waters subsided the fish remained and in this way the lakes of Emmet County were stocked with fine, edible fish, without the aid or intervention of a state fish commission or a government hatchery.


Heavy snows in the winter of 1860-61 prevented the mail carrier from making his regular trips. Lewis Paulson, one of the pioneers of Emmet County, agreed that for nine dollars he would go to Algona, a distance of some forty-five miles, and bring the mail. He started on February 2, 1861, on snow shoes, and made twenty-two miles the first day. That night he staid all night with an Irishman named Jackman. The morning of the third was bright, the air was crisp, and he started out in high spirits to finish the remainder of his journey. About noon he became "snow blind" and lost his bearings, wandering around until nightfall. He then camped on a mound not far from McKnight's Point. He took off his snow shoes and began walking in a circle, thinking he would have to walk all night to keep from freezing. While thus occupied, he heard someone calling hogs. Moving in the direction of the sound, he found the cabin of a settler, where he was hospitably received.

He remained with this settler all day of the fourth to let his eyes rest and recover, but on the fifth he resumed his journey and reached Algona. There he remained over night and on the morning of the next day set out upon his return. That night he reached Emmetsburg and the next day he arrived at Estherville late in the afternoon.

In these days of railroad mail routes, long distance telephones, telegraphs and rural free delivery of mails, it can hardly be realized that the people of Emmet County were ever in such straits for communcation with the outside world that they would make up a purse of nine dollars to employ one of their number to go forty-five miles in the dead of winter for a few letters and newspapers, or that it would take that man five days to go and return. But such were the conditions in the winter of 1860-61. Nine dollars was a considerable sum of money in those days, but Mr. Paulson certainly earned all that he received for his services as a volunteer mail carrier.

On April 6, 1868, Gov. Samuel Merrill approved an act of the Iowa Legislature entitled, "An act to encourage the planting and growing of timber, fruit trees, shade trees and hedges." Under the provisions of this act the board of supervisors of Emmet County, on January 5, 1869, ordered the property of any citizen who would plant one or more acres in forest trees, set not less than eight feet apart, should be exempt from taxation, except for state purposes. Exemptions were also made for each acre of orchard planted, each half mile of hedge, or each mile of shade trees planted along a public highway. Such were the commendable efforts of the county authorities of Emmit County to break the monotony of the treeless prairie districts. The result is seen in the artificial groves around the farm houses, groves in which the trees are now large enough to shelter the house from the fierce winds of winter and furnish a supply of fuel for the family use.


The summer of 1868 is still remembered by old residents as the year of the "blackbird invasion." The birds came in swarms and destroyed so much of the grain that not enough was harvested to supply the local demand. Transportation facilities then were not what they are today, and breadstuffs had to be hauled long distances by wagon. Flour sold in Estherville in the winter of 1868-69 as high as $12 per 100 pounds. Not every family could afford to pay such a price and bread was a luxury with many of the inhabitants. In the fall of that year large numbers of the buffalo fish were taken from the Des Moines River, salted and preserved for food. Many lived on salt fish and potatoes during the greater part of that severe winter, yet they did not lose heart, but toiled on, firm in the faith of Emmet County's future. And the people of the present generation owe a debt of gratitude to those hardy pioneers that can never be fully repaid. Are they mindful of the debt?