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 Iowa History

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Iowa and the Nation

By George Chandler, Author of Practical Civics and Civics for the State of Washington


John L. Cherny, State Inspector of Schools, Department of Public Instruction Des Moines




Chapter V


The County


…Numbers and Boundaries. Iowa, with an area of 56,025 square miles, is separated into 99 counties. When the state was admitted into the Union in 1846, there were only 27 organized counties, but before many years had elapsed, the entire area of the state was included in the counties as they now exist. In most counties the boundaries conform to the range and township lines, as established by government survey. Owing to the  irregular course of the rivers, the counties along the eastern and western boundaries of the state vary from the prevailing rectangular form.


County Names. The study of county names is full of interest. Eleven of the counties, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Polk, Taylor and Buchanan, were named for presidents, and Johnson county for Richard M. Johnson, vice-president of the United States with Van Buren. Audubon, Benton, Calhoun, Carroll, Clay, Clinton, Decatur, Fremont, Humboldt, Jasper, Kossuth, Marion, Marshall, Scott, Story, Warren, Wayne and Webster commemorate names that are historic. Several county names were conferred in honor of noted Indians or Indian tribes. Among these are, Allamakee, for Allan Makee, a noted Indian trader; Black hawk, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Iowa, Mahaska, Pocahontas, Pottawattamie, Poweshiek, Sac, Sioux, Tama, Winnebago and Winneshiek for the most celebrated Indians. Cerro Gordo, Buena Vista and Palo Alto were named to commemorate three famous battles of the Mexican War. The origin of all the other county names may be easily found by a little research on the part of pupils, and many valuable lessons in biography may be based upon these names.


(The following salaries were listed in each section for county officers:


Auditor—In counties having less than 10,000 population, the salary of county auditor is $1,700 a year; in counties having a greater population than 10,000 the salary is increased according to population so that in counties having 65,000 population or more, the salary is $3,400 a year.


Treasurer—In counties whose population does not exceed ten thousand the salary is $1,700. This is increased one hundred dollars a year for each additional five thousand population up to forty thousand. In counties having a population of thirty-five to sixty-five thousand the increase is $200 for each additional ten thousand population. In counties of sixty-five thousand or more the salary is $3,400.


County Clerk or Clerk of the District Court—Salary is determined by the population of the county. In counties having less than 10,000 inhabitants it is $1,700. From this minimum it is increased with the increase in population until in counties having over 65,000 inhabitants it is $3,400.


County Recorder—the salary is $1,600 a year, and increases according to the population of the counties to a maximum of $3,100.


Sheriff—The Thirty-eighth General Assembly (1919) reclassified the salaries of sheriffs. In counties whose population does not exceed 15,000 the salary is $1,700. This is increased in varying amounts according to population, but at no fixed ration. In counties of average population (40,000 to 50,000) the salary is $2,200. In counties of 65,000 or over, the salary is $2,800.


County Attorney—The salary, which is fixed by the board of supervisors, ranges from $1,100 to $3,000, according to the population of the county. Fees and mileage also are provided for in certain cases.


Coroner—It is the duty of this officer to perform all the duties of the sheriff, when there is no sheriff, or when that officer is an interested party in any proceedings in any court of record. He also acts as sheriff when an affidavit is filed with the clerk of the court that the sheriff and his deputies are absent from the county, and are not expected to return in time to perform the service required…

Fees. The fees of the coroner are as follows:

For holding an inquest and making the return, five dollars.

For viewing a body without holding an inquest, three dollars.

For issuing each subpoena, warrant or order for a jury, twenty-five cents.

For each mile traveled in going to and returning from holding an inquest, five cents.

For acting as sheriff he receives the usual fees of that officer.


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