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Greene County IAGenWeb


Early History - 1833-1863

The region in which Greene County is situated is a part of the great "Louisiana purchase,'' secured from France in 1803, during President Jefferson's administration. The State of Missouri was admitted into the Union in 1820, but not a single white person was legally a resident of what is now Iowa until after the Black Ilawk war. By the terms of the treaty concluded at the end of this contest, a strip of land extending west from the Mississippi fifty miles was opened to settlement after the 1st of May, 1833. By successive purchases all of Iowa was subsequently made available for settlement. In many instances, however, the Indians remained on the lands they had sold until the pressure of actual contact drove them westward.

The county of Benton was constituted December 21, 1837, and made to include all the territory between its present northern and southern lines extending to the Missouri River, and was temporariiy attached to the county of Jackson. November 30, 1840, it was similarly attached to Linn County. These acts possess but slight interest for the citizens of Greene County, for until 1849 the county was wholly in tlic possession of the red men.

In that year Truman Davis, the first white settler of the county, located near where the village of Rippey now stands. The same year Enos Buttrick settled at the mouth of what is now known as Buttrick's Creek, while Richard Hardin located near the mouth of the stream which has since borne his name. Messrs. Wood, Valentine and William R. Babb came in 1850 and located along the Coon River, while Josiah Bluncett, Thomas Creenup and John Barr settled farther up the river in 1850-'51.


These hardy pioneers were subject to many inconveniences, their nearest postoffice being at Ft. Des Moines, fifty miles distant, their mills being from fifty to one hundred miles away, and they were compelled to go to Warren, Marion and Mahaska counties to obtain tlieir supply of provisions and other necessities, with no roads to mark their course or bridges to cross the streams. Many are the liardships related of the early settlers. It is stated that one of the settlers left his family with a scanty supply of food, and went down, in the spring of the year, below Des Moines for a fresh supply of provisions. While he was gone the streams all raised so it was impossible for him to return for several days. The scanty provisions of the family gave out, and they were reduced to the extreme necessity of living on soap grease for a number of days. Another instance is related, by one of the citizens of the county, of a settler who left his family to go in quest of provisions. The high waters detained him, the provisions of his family gave out and they were on the verge of starvation. An Indian came to the house one day and asked for food. The lady of the house took him to the cupboard and the meal chest, and showed him that they were without a morsel of food. The Indian asked for the gun - it was given him - he left with it, and in a few hours returned with a couple of deer and gave them to the stai'ving family. In a few days he returned again, and found to the joy of the family that the settler had returned with a bountiful supply of provisions, over which he seemed to rejoice greatly.

Game, such as deer and elk, was in great abundance until the winter of 1855-'56. The snows of that winter were so deep that it was impossible for them to escape the pursuit of men and dogs, and the number destroyed seems almost incredible. It is said that they were overtaken by men, boys, and even w'omen, in the deep snows, and beat to death with clubs. Since then there has scarcely been an elk or deer seen within the county. Their rapid and sudden disappearance astonished every one.


Greene County was established, with limits the same as now, in 1851, and named in honor of General Nathaniel Greene, of the Ilevolutionary army. It was attached to Dallas County January 22, 1853, up to which time it had been attached to the county of Polk for temporary purposes. [See Acts Third General Assembly, Chapter 9; Fourth General Assembly, Chapter 12; Seventh General Assembly, Second Session, Chapter 101.] In 1854 there was a population of about 150, and the county was deemed populous enough to entitle it to regular ogganization. August 12, 1851, accordingly, "William Phillips was commissioned county judge, William Brock, clerk of the district court, and Isaac D. Crumley, sheriff. The first official record of any description is dated August 25, 1854, and reads as follows:
"An order was this day made that Greene County be and the same is hereby divided into two electoral precincts by the lines dividing ranges number thirty and thirty-one west of the fifth principal meridian, Iowa. And that all that part or portion of Greene County contained in ranges twenty-nine and thirty west is hereby known and designated as Washington Township or Electoral Precinct; and all that part or portion of said county as is contained in ranges number thirty-one and thirty-two west of the fifth principal meridian, is hereby known and designated as Jackson Township or Electoral Precinct. William Phillips, County Judge.
The court directed that an election be held in Washington Precinct on Tuesday, the 12th day of September, 1854, for the election of three township trustees, one township clerk, two justices of the peace, two constables and one township supervisor. An election was also appointed for the same date in Jackson Township for the choice of like officials.

The bonds of the justices and constables elected were fixed at $500 each. Elijah Norman and George S. Walton were elected justices in Washington Township, and Sylvanus G. Crumley and Leonard Chance, constables. The election in Jackson Townsliip was held at the house of Allen D. Brock, but the returns were rejected by the judge on account of the judges and clerks of election not having attached their signatures. To fill the offices in Jackson Township Judge Phillips appointed Thomas W. Greenup and Lewis Wright as justices, and Jacob Detrow and Lewis Wright as constables, September 22, 1854. These men, however, declined to qualify.

Benjamin F. Robinson was appointed county clerk November 20, 1854, to succeed Hiram Brock, resigned.


To select a site for the county seat the district judge, C. J. McFarland, appointed the following commissioners: Cornelius Beal, of Boone County; Henry J. Owen, of Dallas County, and O. J. Niles. of Carroll County. These commissioners appeared before Judge Phillips on the 27th of September, 1854, and filed a report of their doings, "from which report it appears they have selected the north half of the southwest quarter and the south half of the northwest quarter of section 8, in township 83 north, of range 30 west of the fifth principal meridian, Iowa, for the county seat of said county, which said lands belong to the United States and are subject to entry." The commissioners were awarded the following sums for services and expenses: Cornelius Beal, $36; O. J. Niles, $20, and Henry J. Owen, $15. They were given warrants, payable out of the proceeds of lots. For "extra services" they were allowed $1 each additional.


The first marriage license issued in this county is as follows, and is signed by Judge AVilliam Phillips:
"This court has this 4th day of September, A. D. 1854, granted license for the marriage of Moses Bowers and Mahala Young, and not being acquainted with the parties, Charles Hathaway was sworn, who declared them both of age and of sound mind: whereupon this court issued license for the marriage ot the above parties."
The second license was to David Rodgers and Margaret Young, October 19, 1854. Judge Phillips solemnized the marriage.

Under date of October 7, 1854. appears the following entry, with reference to the entry of the town site:
"This court has this 7th day of October, 1854, borrowed of Hoyt Sherman, banker ot Fort Des Moines, the sum of $200, with which money it has caused the following real estate to be entered in the name and for the use of Greene County in the State of Iowa, to-wit: the north half of the southwest quarter and the south half of the northwest quarter of section 8, in township 83 north, of range 30 west of the fifth principal meridian, Iowa, containing 160 acres."
The assessment roll was received from Dallas County November 6, 1854, and the following levy of taxes made: State tax, three mills; county tax, six mills; school tax, one and one-half mills: road tax, three mills. The poll tax was fixed at 50 cents.

On the 6th of November Judge Phillips borrowed of William P. Crumley $203 to repay Hoyt Sherman, and gave him a warrant drawing 10 per cent interest, and payable out of the proceeds of the sale of lots.

Robert M. Rippey, surveyor, was on the 20th of November allowed $135 ''out of the proceeds of the sale of lots in the town of Jefferson for the surveying of said town, furnishing chain carriers, axmen, stakes, etc., and making plat of the same." Pleasant Reed and Jonathan Jones were each allowed $1 for services as chain carriers. Nathan W. Brock was paid $18 for assessing the county in 1854.

A marriage license was issued to Usal C. Black and Martha Still December 80, 1854.

January 1, 1855, Thomas Phillips was allowed $1 for candles furnished Greene County. A few days later Hiram Brock was allowed $10.72 as full compensation for services as clerk from Angust 24 to November 13, 1854. This was at the rate of $50 per annum.

Moses Bates appears to have been the lirst person that died in the county whose estate was administered upon. Charlie W. Johnson and Benjamin F. Robinson were the administrators appointed. Jacob Young made the first will, and Rezin McDaniels the second.

At the April election, 1855, S. G. Crumley was elected clerk. For the office of drainage commissioner R. M. Rippey and Lauftus Gray each received eighteen votes. By the direction of Judge Phillips they drew lots for the office. Gray was successful, but, failing to qualify, Rippey was appointed to the office. The election in Washington Township was held at the house of Truman Davis, and W. K. Allen and L. Chance were elected constables, and Norman S. Daniels township clerk. The judges and clerks of this election selected the following as grand jurors, the first chosen in the county: Isaac Clopton, Lewis Wright, Moses Blancett, Archelus Gibson, Elam Robins, Winston Crouse, Charles W. King, William P. Crumley, William Zornes, G, W. Reese, Thomas Roberts, Hiram Toliver, Valentine S. Babb, Charles L. Davis and John Clopton.

On the 7th of May, 1855, Judge Phillips ordered that the proceeds of the sale of town lots in the county seat form a separate fund in the county treasury, dedicated to the future erection of public buildings.

April 24, 1855, a license to marry was issued to Alexander Morgan and Sophronia Rhoads.

The first district court held in Greene County was by Hon. C. J. McFarland, Monday, May 19, 1856. There were three State cases and eight civil cases on docket. The court was held in a new building that had neither doors nor windows. The grand jury held their session out on the prairie. The State cases were against three young women for assault and battery. It seems that the girls got to disputing about something, perhaps some nice young man. At last one gave the other a saucy word or two, and she returned the insult by throwing an egg. The affiiir then commenced in earnest; a basket of eggs was soon used up, when they went at each other with fist and muscle. The combatants were parted, and it is agreed on all sides that it was one of the most fierce and terrible battles that has ever been fought on the Coon River in the shape of a fist fight.

Previous to their organization Calhoun and Sac counties were attached to Greene for administrative purposes. July 3, 1853, a petition was presented to Judge Phillips, of Greene County, praying for the organization of Calhoun County, and the Judge accordingly issued notices of an election to be held at the house of Christopher Smith, on Monday, the 6th day of August, 1855, for the selection of a county judge, county clerk, sheriff, recorder and treasurer, prosecuting attorney, surveyor and coroner. At the election but nine votes were cast. A "slate" had been made up; almost every voter received an office, and the vote was unanimous for each.

The general election in Greene County occurred the same date, and the following officers were chosen: William Phillips, County Judge; S. G. Crumley, County Clerk; James H. Phillips, Treasurer and Recorder; Isaac D. Crumley, Sheriff; Norman S. Daniels, Prosecuting Attorney; Allen J. Currence, Surveyor; John Barr, Coroner. The honds of the treasurer and sheriff were fixed at $5,000 in each case.

Lawrence P. Rhodes and James Ward were appointed deputy sheriffs, and Robert M. Rippey, deputy surveyor. July 5, 1855, Lewis Morley and Lydia Ayers were licensed to marry. One week later a license was issued to James P. Tucker and Sarah J. Tucker. Allen J. Currence was allowed $21 for assessing Jackson Township in 1855, and Valentine S. Habb $26 for assessing Washington Township. The tax levy for 1855 was fixed as follows: State tax, one and onefourth mills; county tax, four mills; school tax, one-half mill; road tax, one mill; road poll tax, $2; count}' poll tax, 50 cents. The marriage licenses issued during the remainder of 1855 were: .lames C. Beeman and Mary A. Chance, August 18; Jesse Perkins and Nancy C. Tucker, August 25; Richard Morlan and Sarah Lewis, September 11; Elijah Thurman and Rebecca Morgan, September 18; John Piles and Mary F. Miller, September 26; I. H. Roberts and Margaret McKean, October 3; Wales B. Sanford and Elizabeth J. May, December 3. (October 1, 1855, John F. Lewis was appointed an agent to procure and sell spirituous liquors in accordance with and jrarsuant to an act passed by the General Assembly, styled "An act for the suppression of intemperance," Chapter 45 in the Acts of 1854 and 1855.

During this first year or more of the county's organic existence the county offices were located in a building belonging to Thomas Phillips. The rent was $3 a month. In November, 1855, he was paid $45 for the fifteen months' rent then due. In this same month William Lee, of Iowa City, was allowed $150 for record books furnished the county. These are the books on which the first records of the different offices are written.

Judge Phillips resigned November 29, 1855, and Norman S. Daniels, prosecuting attorney, acted as county judge until the next spring. Judge Daniels was allowed $25 for his service of a year and a quarter as prosecuting attorney, or at the rate of $20 per annum.

Isaiah Deemer was allowed $20.25 for one writing table, desk and book-case furnished the county. James A. Lock was paid $8, or $1 a cord, for eight cords of wood hauled and delivered at the county offices.

The trustees of Jackson Township, Thomas W. Greenup and Mason Linn, reported December 31, 1855, to Judge Daniels:
"We, the trustees of Jackson Township, Greene County, have this day been called on by Dulanah Johnson, as applicant for Thomas W. Neblock, who has fallen into the care of said Johnson, on account of being so badly frozen that he could not travel farther, and we therefore find by examination on the 28th day of December, 1855, that the said Neblock, who had then been in the care of the said Johnson from the 22d day of December, to be destitute of money, but having one carpet satchel, four pair of Indian moccasins, one pair of gloves, one coat, one cape line, one cap and three handkerchiefs, which are appraised at $8.35. And we also find that the former residence of the said Neblock is in Polk County, Iowa, and we, the undersigned trustees, agree that the said Dulanah Johnson be allowed five dollars per day for keeping the said Neblock, as we believe him to be at the charge of Greene County for the time  being, and until further arrangements can be made, and also that the residenee of the said Neblock is at or near Bennett's, on Walnut Creek."
Samuel Rhoads was appointed justice of the peace in Washington Township, in place of Elijah Norman, who resigned Deeember 3, 1855. February 14, following, Judge Daniels declared the sheriff's office vacant, in consequence of the absence of the sheritf elect and the resignation and disability of the deputies, and appointed Elisha McCoy sheriff to fill the vacancy. County Clerk Crumley resigned .March 3, 1856. On the same date a warrant was issued, based on the usual petition, for the organization of Sac County on the 7th of April following. This was duly carried into effect by the election of a full list of county officers, and from this on Greene County's officials had but one county to look after.

On this same date Greene County, having received a gratifying influx of settlers, was deemed populous enough to form three electoral precincts instead of two, and it was accordingly ordered that all that portion of Greene County contained in range 29, and the east tier of sections in range 30, "is hereby known and designated as Washington Township or Precinct." The remainder of range 30 and the four east tiers of sections in range 31 was made Jefferson Township, while the remainder of range 31 and all of range 32 was named Kendrick Township. Warrants for elections were issued to L. C. Abrell, of Washington, Elisha McCoy, of Jefferson, and D. S. Hamilton, of Kendrick. The elections were held on the 7th of April following, and in each township there were chosen three trustees, one clerk, two justices, two constables, one township assessor and one supervisor.

In Jefferson Township S. G. Crumley and Evan Morlan were elected justices, Sandford Amey and D. M. C. Peek, constables, and Elisha McCoy, clerk. In Washington Township Samuel Rhodes and A. L. McLain were chosen justices, S. R. McLain and Thomas Young, constables, and Joel Thornburg, clerk. In Kendrick Township, Allen D. Brock and David S. Hamilton were elected justices, and Hiram Brock and Moses Blancett, constables.

The Thomas W. Neblock above referred to as frozen severely, and cared for by Dulanah Johnson, died after twelve days, and Mr. Johnson was paid $24 by the county.

Robert M. Rippey was elected county judge at the spring election, 1856, and one of his first acts was an important one looking to the erection of a court-house, as follows:
"This court has this 4th of May, 1856, appropriated $2,000 for the erection of a county house, and to purchase site or lot for building said house, and notices have been posted that bids would be received for the building and completion of said building until the second day of June, 1856, at which time this court will determine who shall erect said building; and if no bids shall be handed in by that time, or if in the opinion of the court it is thought expedient to extend the time of receiving said bids by again posting notices of the same. Bids to be awarded within one week after the time of receiving the same closes."
The contract was awarded June 2, 1856, to James Stanford, for $1,825, and he built the same season the frame court-house on the west side of the square. It was afterward moved into the square, and used until the erection of the present building.

The early officials were not as well educated as those of later years, and some of the records show an amusing disregard of formality and accuracy, especially in the minor particulars of spelling, punctuation, etc. As an example, the following minute of County Judge Rippey is reproduced:

"The Township assessors of Washington & Jefferson Townships appeared. The assessor of Jefferson appeare and filed his assessment papers with the Sincus role and the assesor of Washington Township apeared and having missed some The Court ordered him to Compleat the Same and return them at the Shortest posable time The assessor of Kindriet Township Sent his assesment role to the Court which was Incompleat."
In September, 1863, the county conveyed its right to all swamp and overHow lands in the county, aggregating between 60,000 and 70,000 acres, to the American Emigrant Company, for $9,500. This sale has given rise to much trouble ami litigation, which has continued to tliis year. It is said that much of the land disposed of should never have been rated as swamp land. Conflicting claims have arisen, many of them involving the railroads, but the story cannot be told in a manner to be of general interest, as the profoundest legal questions are in\nlveil.


Besides the first settlers already named, following is a list of the citizens of the county in 1856, when the county was divided into three townships, as before mentioned:

Washington Township:
Moses Bowers
Elijah Norman
Reuben Stevens
Jonathan Hutchison
Charles W. King
Elom Robbins
L. D. Robertson
Jacob Bish
James Crabb
Joshua Kinbey
Alexander Morgan
Isaac Rhoads
E. Rinehart
Isaiah W. Deemer
Adam Shroyer
Rensselaer Van Horn
William Franklin
Hiram Toliver
Wesley Holler
Isom Toliver
Thomas King
Joel N. Thornburg
Truman Davis
Charles L. Davis
Isaac Brand
John Brand
William W. Robertson
Ceorge Wood
Clayton S. Abrell
Inskip Tucker
George Tucker
Samuel Hoover,
William Tucker
David S. Vancleave
William Lee
William L. Evans
William A. J. McNaught
William F. Crumley
Alexander T. Trimm
Washington K. Allen
Gustavus Peek
Thomas Elwell
John Tyler
Joshua Layton
James Willson
John McWilliams
John Roberts
Robert Tuckens
Socrates Moore
Abner Moore
Nathan Worley
John Worley, Jr.
Harris G. Golden
Mark York
Jarvis Decker
Archibald Allen
Robert Allen
Jesse Perkins, Sr.
Isaac Spencer

Jefferson Township:
James H. Phillips
Irvin Wright
John W. Wright
Benjamin Morman
James King
Michael Reece
Joseph Coomes
Bennett Dorherty
Thomas Phillips
Isaac Welker
William Phillips
Samuel Peek
John S. Morlan
James Tucker
George Ranbarger
Isaac Tucker
D. M. C. Peek
Christopher Peek
E. Atkins
Benjamin Ford
Jackson Morlan
Silas A. Meeker
Joshua Bickford
Evan Morlan
Benjamin F. Stokes
Jonathan Jones
A. J. Hoisington
Pleasant Reed
Samuel O'Neal
Benedict O'Neal
George Bell
L. P. Rhodes
Sanford Amey
W. S. McBride
Alexander Evans
Joseph Jones
Alfred Peek
Augustus Yergen
William Wilson
V. Amey
Benjamin Churchill
Thomas Hamlet
John M. Cully
George S. Walton
Lewis Wright
Silas Wright
Benjamin F. Robinson
George May.

Kendrick Township:
Archelus Gibson
John Morlan
William L. Culley
Sheldon B. Davis
Joseph Taylor
Joseph Kesler
Christopher Borders
Absalom Morlan
Josiah Blancett
Moses Blancett
Thomas Morgan
William Whitsort
H. W. Chambers
E. F. Davenport
George H. Beck
John C. Beck,
Delanah/Dulanah Johnson
John D. Rivers
Jones Rivers
Eli H. Rivers
William Yates
Hiram Brock
E. B. Rogers
Horatio Hastey
Willis Wright
Nathaniel Dehart
A. H. Thompson
Samuel P. Borders
Joseph A. Stickney
Peter Fox
A. D. Brock
Allen J. Currence
Isaac Waldron
John Waldron
Edmond Carney
Isaac Seaman
Mason Linn
Thomas A. Greenup


Under the old regime the county judge was possessed of very large powers - more so, proportionately, than a king has over his subjects. At the close of 1860 an important change was made, by which the county judge retained only charge of probate matters, and the general government of the county vested in the Board of Supervisors, which first met in January, 1861. The board consisted at first of three, but in 1873 was increased by a vote of the people to five members, the present number.


The number of civil townships has increased to sixteen, most of them being just a congressional township in size. Washington, which at first included the east half of the county, has been gradually cut down till it now contains township 82 and the south third of township 83, range 29, or forty-eight square miles. Jefferson Township has been reduced to the size of the incorporated town of Jefferson, or a square two and a half miles on a side, occupying the northwest corner of township 83, range 30. Kendrick comprises township 84, range 32.

Cedar Township was organized in 1867, and comprises township 85, range 32.

Hardin was organized in 1869, and comprises township 84, range 30.

Franklin was organized in 1870, and comprises township 82, range 30.

Junction was organized in 1870, and comprises township 84 and the nortli two-thirds of township 83, range 29, thus being sixty sections in size, and the largest civil township in the county.

Scranton was organized in 1870, and comprises township 83, range 32.

Bristol was organized in 1871, and comprises township 84, range 31.

Jackson was organized in 1871, and comprises township 83, range 31.

Dawson was organized in 1872, and comprises township 85, range 30.

Highland was organized in 1872, aiul comprises township 85, range 31.

Willow was oi-ganized in 1874, and comprises township 82, range 32.

Paton was organized in 1875, and comprises township 85, range 29.

Grant was organized in 1877, and comprises all of township 83, range 30, except the six and one-fourth square miles in the northwest corner (which make up Jefferson Township), and includes twenty-nine and three-fourths square miles.

Greenbrier is one of the youngest townships, and comprises township 82, range 31.


In 1858 a report came to New Jefferson that gold had been discovered in a run on Uncle Johnny Barr's farm, twelve miles west of town. The merchant threw down his yard-stick and locked his store, the physician his pill bags, the lawyer his Blackstone, the farmer left his plow, and all seized picks, shovels and tin pans, rushed to the new Eldorado, expecting soon to dig out fortunes and return millionaires. After digging and washing a few days - some say they got the color, others say they found small particles of gold - they all concluded to return to their former occupations, thinking that they were more profitable than digging for nuggets in Greene County.

Source:  1887 Biographical and Historical Record, Greene and Carroll Counties Iowa, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago

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