HISTORY OF IOWA COUNTIES
The first legislation providing for the creation of counties
within the limits of the territory which eventually became the State
of Iowa, was an act of the Legislative Assembly of Michigan
Territory in 1834, as follows:
An act to lay off and organize counties west of the Mississippi
Section 1. Be it enacted by the
Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan - That all that
district of country which was attached to the Territory of Michigan
by an act of Congress entitled "An act to attach the territory of
the United States west of the Mississippi River and north of the
State of Missouri, to the Territory of Michigan, and to which the
Indian title had been extinguished, which is north of a line to be
drawn due west from the lower end of the Rock Island to the Missouri
River, shall constitute a county and be called Dubuque; said county
shall constitute a township which shall be called Julien, and the
seat of justice shall be at the village of Dubuque.
Section 2. All that part of the
district aforesaid which was attached to the Territory of Michigan
situated south of said line to be drawn due west of the lower end of
Rock Island, shall constitute a county and be called Demoine; said
county shall constitute a township and be called Flint Hill; the
seat of justice shall be at such place therein as shall be
designated by the judge of the county court of said county.
Section 4 of the act provided "That
all laws now in force in the county of Iowa* not locally
inapplicable, shall be and are hereby extended to the counties of
Dubuque and Demoine and shall be in force therein."
*This was the name of a county
east of the Mississippi River in that portion of Michigan Territory
which afterwards became the State of Wisconsin.
The Indian title was at that time extinguished to a region
extending form the north line of Missouri to the mouth of the Upper
Iowa River and fifty miles in width west of the Mississippi River.
It will be seen that the two new counties embraced the entire
"Black Hawk Purchase," and were the only counties created within the
limits of the territory embraced in Iowa, by the Legislative
Assembly of Michigan, while it was a part of that Territory. When
it became a part of Wisconsin Territory twenty-two counties were
created; and when Iowa Territory was created, twenty-three
additional counties were established. After it was admitted as a
State many changes were made in the boundaries and names of counties
and the remainder of its area was divided into counties until they
The organization of the older counties was provided for by
special legislative acts; but the First and Fourth General
Assemblies of the State provided general laws directing the method
of county organization. The Constitution of 1857 gave a measure of
stability to the boundaries of the counties as they then existed and
all attempts to create new counties, divide or change the limits
since the adoption of that Constitution have failed. The act
expressly prohibits the creation of a county having less than four
hundred and thirty-two square miles. The counties of Mitchell,
Worth, Winnebago, Emmet, Dickinson and Osceola were each found to
lack sixteen square miles but, by the terms of the Constitution,
their boundaries were not interfered with.
Another clause of the Constitution provides "That no law changing
the boundary lines of any county shall have effect, until upon being
submitted to the people of the counties affected by the change at a
general election, it shall be approved by a majority of votes in
each county cast for and against it." In 1862, notwithstanding this
provision, the General Assembly passed an act authorizing counties
to readjust their boundaries as they might see fit. Acting under
this statute the people of Monona and Crawford counties moved the
division line between them six miles west. The Code Commissioners
in 1873, regarding this action as in conflict with the Constitution,
omitted the act from the code and it ceased to have effect after the
1st of September, of that year.
The Third General Assembly, in 1850, created twenty-five new
counties embracing all of the territory in which counties had not
been established heretofore.
A bill providing for the creation of these counties was prepared
by P. M. Cassady, Senator from the Polk County district, and was
referred to the committee on new counties of which Mr. Casady was a
member.* In the original bill the county now bearing the name of
Union was named "Mason," for Judge Charles Mason. The committee was
opposed to discriminating among the many living men of note in the
State and changed the name to Union. Objection was also made to the
name of Buncombe but when it was explained that it was in honor of a
distinguished officer in the Revolutionary War from North Carolina,
it was permitted to remain. The bill also gave the name of Floyd to
the one which is now Woodbury, to commemorate Sergeant Floyd of the
Lewis and Clark expedition. The House amended the bill by naming
that county "Wahkaw." The committee fixed upon a large number of
the names in the following manner: three were named in honor of
colonels who fell in the War with Mexico - Hardin of Illinois, Clay
of Kentucky and Yell of Arkansas. Three more were named for
battle-fields in the same war - Cerro Gordo, Buena Vista and Palo
Alto. Three for Irish patriots - Emmet, Mitchell and O'Brien. One
county was named Worth, for Major-General William J. Worth; one for
General William O. Butler who was the Democratic candidate for
Vice-President in 1848; one for Major Frederick Mills, a talented
young lawyer from Burlington who was killed at the Battle of
Cherubusco; one for Edwin Guthrie, an early pioneer of Fort Madison,
who died of wounds received in battle in Mexico. The Mexican War
had closed but two years before this session, the names of its
battle-fields and military officers were so fresh in the memory of
the people that they were liberally drawn upon for names of the new
*Many of the facts in relation
to the naming of these counties were first given to the public in a
paper read by Judge Cassady in 1894, at a session of the Pioneer
ADAIR COUNTY was created by act of the Legislature of 1851 from
territory embraced in the original county of Des Moines. It lies in
the third tier north of Missouri and in the third tier east of the
Missouri River. The county is twenty-four miles square and embraces
an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles. The north tier of
townships was from December 31st, 1837, to July 30, 1840, embraced
in the old county of Keokuk as first established. The county was
named for General John Adair a distinguished officer of the War of
1812 and afterwards the sixth Governor of Kentucky.
Thomas N. Johnson is the first white man known to have made a
home within the limits of the county. He made a claim and built a
log cabin in 1849 on section four in Washington township where, in
1850, he built a mill on a stream running through his farm. In 1850
William Alcorn made a claim on Middle river at a point known as "the
upper crossing." During the same year a Mr. Lyon took a claim and
built a cabin near a large spring in a grove in what became
Jefferson township. In 1851 J. J. Vawter purchased the claim and
the grove took his name. Among the early settlers were William
McDonald, who settled at the lower crossing of Middle River, Alfred
Jones in Jackson township, Robert Wilson in Grand River, George M.
Holiday in Jefferson, Joshua Chapman in Richland and Jacob Bruce in
In April, 1854, the first election was held in Alfred Jones'
cabin at which George M. Holiday was chosen county judge and John
Gibson, clerk. The first court was held in the cabin of the judge
on the 6th of May following. On the 24th of April, 1855, the
county-seat was located at Summerset, a town laid out by G. M.
Holiday, D. M. Valentine* and Abram Ruth, and six miles south of the
center of the county. In 1856 by act of the Legislature the name
was changed to Fontanelle.
*D. M. Valentine moved to Kansas
in 1859 where he has been a member of both branches of the
Legislature, District Judge and Associate Justice of the Supreme
The first house in Summerset was a double log cabin built in
June, 1855, by James C. Gibbs for a tavern and post-office. Mr.
Gibbs was the first postmaster in the town and county. A store was
opened in 1856 by Calvin Ballard.
At the time the county was organized the population was about one
hundred fifty. The town of Greenfield, laid out in September, 1856,
by Milton C. Munger is about six miles northeast of Fontanelle and
in 1875 became the county-seat. Matthew Clark built the first house
the same year which was used as a store by A. D. Littleton as well
as a station of the Western Stage Company. The first school in the
county was taught by Miss Huldah Lee in 1857 in the court-house at
Fontanelle. The Congregationalists organized the first church in
1856 at the same place.
The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad was built through the
extreme northern limits of the county in 1868 upon which the towns
of Adair and Casey were laid out. The first newspaper was
established by James C. Gibbs in 1863 and named the Adair County
Register. After a long and bitter contest extending from 1865
to 1875 the county-seat was removed from Fontanelle to Greenfield.
ADAMS COUNTY is the third east of the Missouri State line. It
contains twelve Congressional townships, embracing within its limits
four hundred thirty-two square miles. The county was created in
1851 from territory formerly within Des Moines County and was named
for John Adams, second President of the United States.
The county-seat was located by commissioners a little north of
the center of the county and named Quincy, for John Quincy Adams,
the sixth President. The land upon which the county-seat was
located belonged to Jacob M. B. Miller who laid out the town and
deeded to the county all even numbered lots and a public square, J.
R. Holbrook built the first house in August, 1853, in which he
opened a store. The first white man known to have settled in the
county was Ilijah Walters who, in 1849, took a claim two miles south
of Quincy. Samuel Baker, Morgan Warren and Samuel Hardesty made
claims and built cabins soon after.
At the election held in April of that year, Samuel Baker was
chosen county judge and John H. Calvin recorder. In 1853 a French
colony composed of socialists purchased about 3,000 acres of
Government land near the East Nodaway River, The people were
followers of Etineen Cabet a French philosopher. The community
located here to make the experiment of owning property in common and
governing themselves in accordance with the socialistic theories of
their leader, They organized a local government consisting of a
general assembly composed of the male members of the community over
twenty-one years of age. All property was owned in common and
controlled by a board of directors consisting of a president,
secretary, treasurer and a director of agriculture, industry and
clothing. New members were admitted upon consent of three-quarters
of the male members twenty-one years of age. All were required to
surrender their property to the community, give their services in
consideration of a living, sharing equally the benefits. No money
compensation was given for any kind of service. There was no
religious creed and no form of worship but the members of the colony
professed the religion of the primitive Christians. Sunday was a
day of recreation and amusement and in all respects held to be no
more sacred than any other day. The membership after an existence
of nearly half a century numbers about fifty.
In 1855 a town was laid out by D. N. Smith about five miles south
of Quincy which was named Corning, in honor of a New York politician
and capitalist, Erastus Corning. It is on the main line of the
Burlington Railroad and has become the county-seat. The first
church in the county was organized at Quincy in 1856 by the
Methodists. In 1859 they organized a seminary at Brookville and in
the same year the first newspaper was established at Corning by D.
N. Smith, with L. Raguet as editor, and named the Corning
Adams County has an undulating surface and is well watered by the
East and West Nodaway rivers and their branches. One-tenth of the
county was originally covered with forests. Coal, limestone and
good building stone abound in portions of the county and it lies in
the famous blue grass region.
ALLAMAKEE COUNTY was established in 1847 by act of the First
General Assembly. The name is of Indian origin says Fulton in his
"Red Men of Iowa"; while other authorities claim that it took its
name from "Allen Makee" a famous Indian trader and trapper who
established a trading post within its limits at an early day. The
county was formerly a part of Fayette and occupies the extreme
northeastern portion of the State and, geologically considered, is
the oldest in formation. The eastern boundary consists of the
Mississippi River and the northern is the Minnesota line. It
embraces five townships north and south and from three to four east
and west, containing six hundred fifty-eight squares miles. Much of
the county has a rough surface of hills, ravines and narrow valleys.
The bluffs along the Mississippi River are abrupt and in many
places have an altitude of four hundred feet above the water, thence
having a gradual ascent westward reaching a height of six hundred
feet. A large portion of the county was originally covered with a
growth of hazel brush and trees of many varieties. It is well
watered by the Upper Iowa and yellow rivers and numerous rapidly
flowing creeks of pure water. A series of large sloughs extends
along the Mississippi River in width of from one to three miles.
The "Iowa Slough" extends from the northern line of the county to
Allamakee was in the limits of the "Neutral Ground" and was long
held as a peaceful hunting land over which hostile tribes of Indians
pursued the chase without collisions. It was given to the Winnebago
Indians in 1833, when they were forced to surrender their Wisconsin
homes. In 1846 they exchanged the "Neutral Ground" for lands in
Minnesota and two years later removed to their new homes. There is
a tradition that as early as 1818 some white trappers and Indian
traders made a settlement on the west bank of the Mississippi within
the limits of Allamakee County, remaining there many years. But all
traces of their cabins had disappeared before the first permanent
settlers came. It is known that traders had a station at "Old
Mission," long before the Indian title was extinguished; but no
record of their names had been preserved, As early as 1828 Colonel
Zachary Taylor, who was in command at Fort Crawford (Prairie du
Chien), sent a detail of soldiers across the Mississippi River to
erect a saw mill near the mouth of Yellow River where a large amount
of lumber was made for buildings at the fort. Lieutenant Jefferson
Davis was among the officers at Fort Crawford and the future
President of the Southern Confederacy was a frequent visitor to the
Iowa shore. In 1835 Colonel Taylor established an Indian Mission
not far from the old saw mill. This Mission was in charge of Rev.
David Lowrey, who endeavored to educate and civilize the Indians,
while Colonel Thomas, in charge of the farm, gave them instruction
in growing crops and raising stock. But little success attended
these efforts. The warriors considered labor degrading and after a
few years the Mission was abandoned.
In 1838 Patrick Keenan and Richard Cassiday settled in Makee
township and William Gamsin and John Haney at Lansing. In 1839
Henry Johnson, a discharged soldier, built a cabin near the mouth of
Paint Creek where he lived several years with Indian wives. Johnsonport
was named for him. A military road was opened by the Government
about this time, on the west side of the Mississippi between Fort
Crawford and Fort Atkinson and, in 1841, Joel Post obtained
permission to keep a public house in the Government building. Here
at the "Half Way House" he and his wife often entertained Captains
E. V. Summer, Nathaniel Lyon, Lieutenants Alfred Pleasanton and
Jefferson Davis at that time young officers in the regular army but
afterwards famous leaders in the War of the Rebellion. The village
of Postville now occupies the ground where the old public house
stood and takes its name from the landlord of pioneer times. In
1840 Jesse Danley built a dam across the Yellow River and erected a
saw mill. In 1841 Jacob Rynerson settled in the Old Mission and,
after the removal of the Winnebago Indians, the property was
purchased by Thomas C. Linton who was selected sheriff in 1848 to
organize the county.
The first county-seat was located a mile and a half northwest of
Rossville and was named Columbus. In 1848 Archy Whaley settled east
of Waukon and William C. Thompson and Professor Whaley came in 1849.
The first county officers were chosen the same year; Elias Topliff,
county judge; John B. Twiford, clerk; James M. Sumner, recorder and
treasurer. In 1851 Father Thomas Hore, a Catholic missionary,
settled at Wexford where he founded a colony of his countrymen from
Ireland. He there built the first church in the county. In 1848 H.
H. Houghton made a claim where Lansing stands and in 1851 he and
John Hainey laid out the town of Lansing. The first houses were
rude log cabins. The first court was held in Columbus in July,
1852, by Judge Thomas S. Wilson. In 1851 the first newspaper was
established by W. H. Sumner at Lansing and was named the
Intelligencer and later becoming the Lansing Mirror. In
the fall of 1849 G. C. Shattuck made a claim where Waukon stands.
The town was laid out by Mr. Shattuck in December, 1853, and forty
acres deeded to the county upon condition that it be made
county-seat. The proposition was accepted and Waukon remained the
county-seat until 1861 when it was removed to Lansing by a vote of
the people, but in 1867, Waukon again became the county-seat and has
so remained. It was not until 1872 that a railroad was built into
the county, running along the Mississippi River from Dubuque to
APPANOOSE COUNTY, originally a part of Demoine, was established
in 1843 and temporarily attached to Van Buren. In 1854 it was
attached to Davis and fully organized in August, 1846, at an
election held on the third of that month. It was named for a noted
chief of the Sac and Fox Indians. This county is the fourth west of
the Mississippi River in the tier on the Missouri State line. In
size it is twenty-four miles east and west and about twenty-one and
a half north and south, containing five hundred sixteen square
miles. The principal streams are the Chariton River and its two
branches running in a southeasterly direction. The supply of timber
is abundant, consisting of white, black and burr oak, hickory, black
walnut, hard and soft maple, ash, elm and other varieties. A large
portion of the county is underlaid with coal and good building stone
is found in many localities.
The first known white men within its limits were a company of
United States Dragoons sent from Rock Island in the summer of 1832
to make an examination of the region. One night they camped near a
large spring in the south part of the county near Cincinnati. In
1833 Joseph Shaddon from Missouri went on an excursion through
Appanoose where he found an abundance of deer and wild turkeys. He
saw the trail made by the dragoons the year before near the
Chariton. Frequent trips were made by people from Missouri into
Appanoose in search of game and bees but no settlements were made
until the spring of 1838, when Ewing Kirby a young man from Missouri
crossed into the then Indian country with his family and built a
cabin near where Cincinnati now stands. Colonel James Wells a year
later made a claim and built a mill in the southern part of the
county. Others came soon after but, as the country still belonged
to the Indians, complaints were made and a company of dragoons was
sent from the Agency on the Des Moines River to drive the intruders
out and burn their buildings. In 1843 William Cooksey took a claim
near the Chariton River, and the next year J. F. Stratton from
Missouri made a claim where Cincinnati stands. Solomon Hobbs,
George Buckner, J. F. Stratton and others came during the following
season. They were mostly young men without families doing their own
housework and living in the most primitive manner. George W.
Perkins was the first settler in Center township and planted the
first orchard in the county. Rev. W. S. Manson preached the first
sermon in a log cabin on the west side of the river. About this
time S. F. Wadding opened a store where Centerville now stands.
The Indian title to Appanoose was not extinguished until 1843 but
there was a strip of country about nine miles wide extending along
its southern border which was claimed by Missouri and in this
disputed territory, which was finally awarded to Iowa, settlers were
not molested as they claimed to be in Missouri. The north line of
this strip ran close to where Centerville stands.
On the 1st of April, 1844, the first election was held in a log
cabin built by J. F. Stratton, at which nine votes were polled.
Benjamin Spooner was chosen judge, and J. F. Stratton clerk of the
District Court. In 1846 Centerville was laid out and first named
Chaldea but the citizens were not satisfied with that name and at a
house raising held not long after there was a large gathering and a
proposition was made to change it. Dr. W. S. Manson, who was a
great admirer of Governor Senter of Tennessee, proposed in an
eloquent speech to change the name to Senterville in honor of the
Governor. A petition was signed by those present to that effect and
forwarded to the Legislature. The committee to which it was
referred reported in favor of the change, but thinking to correct an
error in orthography in the bill, spelled the name Centerville, and
in that shape it became a law, to the great chagrin of the admirers
of Governor Senter. The first house in the town was built by S. F.
Waddington who opened a store in it. The Methodists organized the
first church in the county with Rev. Hugh Gibson, pastor. Amos
Harris was the first lawyer and Dr. W. S. Manson the first physician
in the new town.
In October, 1856, the first newspaper in the county was
established by Fair Brothers and named the Appanoose Chief,
published at Centerville. In 1868 the town of Moulton was laid out
on the line of the North Missouri Railroad, twelve miles southeast
of Centerville. This was the first railroad in the county, built in
AUBUDON COUNTY was created by act of the Legislature of 1851 out
of the then large county of Keokuk. It was named for John J.
Audubon the naturalist and in 1853 was attached to Cass and divided
into civil townships. It lies in the third tier east of the
Missouri River and in the fourth north of the State of Missouri,
contains twelve congressional townships and has a superficial area
of four hundred forty-six square miles.
The first settlement within its limits was made in March, 1851,
by Nathaniel Hamlin, John S. Jenkins and Arthur Decker, with their
families, who took claims in a fine body of timber which became
known as Hamlin's Grove. In the fall of the same year Dr. S. M.
Ballord and B. M. Hyatt made claims in another body of timber which
was named Big Grove. William Powell the same year took a claim
where Exira stands.
The county was organized in 1855, and the seat of justice located
on the 20th of June on section twenty-two, township seventy-eight,
range thirty-five west. Here a town was laid out and named Dayton.
An election was held April 2d, 1855, at the house of John S.
Jenkins at which Samuel Lewis was chosen county judge. In 1861 the
county-seat was removed to a new town called Viola, laid out by D.
M. Harris and David Edgerton; but the name was soon changed to
Exira, in honor of a lady then living in the county. Dayton soon
after disappeared from the map and its site became a farm. Oakfield
was laid out in 1857 by E. D. Bradley who then opened the first
store in the county. Oakfield took its name from a large oak grove
which originally covered the town site on the east bank of the
Nishnabotna River. The first newspaper in the county was
established at Audubon City in December, 1860, and was named the
Audubon Pioneer. Its proprietor was John C. Brown, who was
killed in the war of the Rebellion at the Battle of Milliken's Bend
where he was serving as captain of Company I, Twenty-third Iowa
Volunteers. East Nishnabotna is the largest stream running through
the county from north to south, with numerous branches which afford
a good supply of water. The surface of the county is rolling with
deep ravines in places. The soil is very fertile producing abundant
crops of grass, grain, fruit and vegetables. A branch of the Rock
Island Railroad from Atlantic was the first to enter the county.
BANCROFT COUNTY was created by act of the Legislature in 1851
from a portion of old Fayette and embraced the twelve northern
townships of what is now Kossuth County, extending to the Minnesota
line, making an area of four hundred four square miles. The county
was named in honor of George Bancroft, the historian. In January,
1853, it was attached to Boone County for election, revenue and
judicial purposes. In 1855 by act of the General Assembly it was
made a part of Kossuth and Bancroft County ceased to exist. The
county was one vast level prairie through which the east fork of the
Des Moines River flowed and its lands in early times were considered
too wet for profitable cultivation but in later years the soil has
been found to be exceedingly productive and has been converted into
fine farms of increasing value. No county-seat was established
during the brief period that Bancroft had an existence and no
organization of a county government was perfected.
BELKNAP COUNTY was created by act of the General Assembly in
1874, embracing townships seventy-four, seventy-five, seventy-six
and seventy-seven in ranges thirty-eight, thirty-nine and forty in
the eastern portion of Pottawattamie County. In compliance with the
Constitution the proposition to establish this county was submitted
to a vote of the electors residing in the county of Pottawattamie
which it was proposed to divide and at this election was rejected so
that Belknap County ceased to exist. The name was given in honor of
General William W. Belknap, a distinguished Iowa officer in the
Civil War and afterwards Secretary of War in the Cabinet of
President U. S. Grant.
BENTON COUNTY was created by act of the Legislature of Wisconsin
Territory in 1837 and embraced at that time all of the territory
between its northern and southern lines west to the Missouri River
and was attached to Jackson County temporarily. It was named for
Thomas H. Benton who was for thirty years United States Senator from
Missouri. In November, 1840, Benton County was attached to Linn and
in February, 1843, was reduced in size to its present limits,
containing twenty congressional townships, making seven hundred
twenty square miles.
The first pioneers who made homes in the county were James Scott
and Samuel Lockhart who, in the spring of 1839, took claims near
where the village of Marysville stands. Several families from
Indiana soon settled in that vicinity and the place was known as
"Hoosier Point." The same year Samuel Parker made a claim embracing
a body of timber which was called "Parker's Grove." Gilman Clark
located a mile east of where Shellsburg stands and L. F. North, John
Smith and George Wright settled in the vicinity during the year,
The county was organized in May, 1846, and the county-seat
located where a new town named Fremont was laid out. A log
court-house was erected two stories in height. The name of the town
was afterwards changed to Vinton, in honor of Plynn Vinton, a member
of Congress from Ohio, who paid fifty dollars for the honor. A
portion of the county on the east side was embraced in the "Black
Hawk Purchase" and was therefore opened to settlement several years
before the remainder. The early settlements were made on this
strip, which was on the extreme frontier, by a band of desperadoes
who found shelter in the Indian country beyond, and preyed upon the
property of the pioneers for several years. It was impossible to
arrest and punish these thieves and murderers and finally the
settlers organized a "vigilance committee," hunted them down and by
lynch law rid the county of them.
The first election was held in August, 1843, when the county was
attached to Linn. The first officers were chosen at an election
held at Parker's Grove in 1846, when twenty-nine votes were polled.
James Mitchell was chosen county judge, John Royal sheriff, and
David Pratt clerk. The first court was held in May, 1847, at the
house of Thomas Way at which Judge J. P. Carlton presided. Among
the attorneys present were Norman W. Isbel, I. M. Preston and D. P.
Palmer. A school was opened near Marysville and a saw mill built on
Mud Creek soon after the first settlers erected their log cabins.
In October, 1846, a post-office was established at Vinton with
Stephen Holcomb as postmaster. In early days a fine grove of red
cedars stood on the banks of the Cedar River but a vandal squatter
named Thompson cut them down and sold the logs down the river. A
few years later several similar groves were destroyed in like
manner. It was from these and other groves that the Cedar River
derived its name.
The first newspaper in the county was established in January,
1855, by Frederick Lyman and S. C. Foster and named the Vinton
Eagle. The Presbyterians organized the first church at Vinton
in 1852, with Rev. Hohn Summerson as pastor. In 1858 Thomas
Drummond the young editor of the Vinton Eagle was a member of
the Legislature and secured the passage of an act locating the
Asylum for the Blind at Vinton. In 1861 the town of Belle Plaine
was laid out on the line of the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad
which had just been extended through the southern part of the
county. Another town was also laid out on this line the same year,
named Blairstown, for John I. Blair, who was the president of the
In 1854 Jacob Cantonwine laid out a town on Bear Creek which was
named Shellsburg for a city in Pennsylvania. Norway was laid out in
1863 on the line of the Northwestern Railroad and this named at the
request of Osborn Tuttle who gave five acres of land to the railroad
company. Benton County is well watered by the Cedar and Iowa rivers
and their tributaries which furnish water power in many places.
Native timber is found along the streams and the prairie soil is of
the best quality. Building stone is quite abundant along the Cedar
River and granite boulders are found in many sections of the
BLACK HAWK COUNTY, created on the 17th of February, 1847, by act
of the General Assembly, lies in the third tier south of the
Minnesota line and fourth west of the Mississippi River and contains
sixteen congressional townships embracing an area of five hundred
seventy-six square miles. It was attached to Buchanan in 1851.
The first white settler was Paul Somaneux, a French trader who,
in the summer of 1837, ascended the Cedar River to the rapids where
Cedar Falls stands, there built a cabin and opened a profitable
trade with the Indians in furs and skins. Robert Stuart, another
trader, reached the rapids the same season and engaged in traffic
with the Indians. In 1844 William Chambers of Louisa County came to
the rapids, built a cabin and also opened trade with Indians, but
none of these earliest settlers engaged in farming. In the spring
of 1845 William Sturgis and wife of Michigan and A. E. Adams and
wife of Johnson County made an excursion of the Cedar River in
search of good water power. They were charmed with the beauty of
the valley and finding excellent water power at the rapids, took
claims on the river banks where Cedar Falls now stands. Mr. Sturgis
soon began to construct a dam across the river and for many years
the settlement was known as "Sturgis Falls." In May, John Hamilton
and his sons came to the new settlement and took claims. George
Hanna and family, John Melrose and William Virden soon after took
claims near Black Hawk Creek, while E. G. Young and James Newell
settled in the northern part of the county. In February, 1847, John
W. Overman, D. C. Overman and J. F. Barrick came to Sturgis Falls,
purchased the water power and land belonging with it, finished the
dam and erected a sawmill. In 1851 a town was laid out and named
Cedar Falls. Andrew Mularky opened a store in his log cabin, the
first in the county, which was known as the "Black Hawk store." In
1846 Mrs. J. F. Taylor opened the first school with six pupils. For
many years the site of Cedar Falls was covered with beautiful forest
trees which gradually disappeared.
The county remained unorganized until the summer of 1853 when the
first election was held for county officers with the following
result: J. R. Pratt was chosen county judge; Aaron Dow, treasurer;
John H. Brooks, clerk, and John Virden, sheriff. The county-seat
was located at Cedar Falls. The first term of district court was
held in June, 1854, at which Judge Thomas S. Wilson presided. On
the 11th of July, 1853, W. H. McClure and S. H. Packard established
the first newspaper in the county at Cedar Falls with A. F. Brown as
In June, 1846, James Virden and Charles Mullan located claims on
the west side of the river about seven miles below Cedar Falls at a
point known as Prairie Rapids and erected a cabin. In the fall they
with G. W. Hanna and J. H. Brooks laid out a town which they named
Waterloo. The first store was opened by Nelson Francher in his log
cabin and a public house by Seth Lake in another cabin. Charles
Mullan was the first postmaster and in 1853 Eliza May taught the
In 1854 James Eggers built a dam across the river at Waterloo and
erected a sawmill. In 1856 George W. Couch built a flouring-mill.
The spring and summer of 1858 were noted for heavy rains which
raised the streams to flood height and a small steamer at Cedar
Rapids came up to Waterloo loaded with freight afterward making
several trips. In 1855 a movement was inaugurated to remove the
county-seat from Cedar Falls to Waterloo. At an election held for
that purpose three hundred eighty-eight votes were cast for Waterloo
and two hundred sixty for Cedar Falls. The removal was delayed
several months by legal proceedings. A newspaper was established at
Waterloo in December, 1855, by William Haddock named the Iowa
State Register. After the close of the Civil War a home for
soldiers' orphans was established at Cedar Falls.
In June, 1855, Jesse Wasson laid out the town of La Porte in the
southern part of the county. The Cedar River runs diagonally
through the county from north to south and the Wapsipinicon runs
through the northeastern portion, both having many tributaries. The
county was named for the famous Sac chief. In 1861 the Dubuque and
Sioux City Railroad was completed to Cedar Falls. The Burlington
and Cedar Rapids road follows up the valley of the Cedar River.
BOONE COUNTY is near the geographical center of the State, lying
in the fifth tier from its north line, in the eighth west of the
Mississippi River and containing sixteen congressional townships
with an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles. It was
created by act of the Legislature in January, 1846, and named for
Captain Nathan Boone who, in 1832, commanded a company of Rangers in
an expedition which explored the Des Moines and Boone River valleys.
Lysander W. Babbitt, a young man with the expedition, was so
fascinated with the beauty of this region, that in the spring so
1842 he, with two companions, went into the Boone valley where they
spent several months hunting and exploring. They traveled nearly to
the headwaters of the Boone, then crossed to the Des Moines and
camped where Moingona stands. There they found the ruins of an
Indian village, near which they made claims. They were at one time
robbed of their furs by a band of Sioux Indians and finding it
dangerous to remain so far from white settlements, surrounded by
roving bands of Sioux, early in the winter of 1844 prudently
abandoned their claims and returned to a settled country. They were
the first white men to select homes in Boone County. In 1846
another member of Captain Boone's company, Charles G. Gaston, with
his family ascended the Des Moines valley as far as Elk Rapids where
he made a claim and built a log cabin. Soon after John Pea, James
Hull, J. M. Crooks and others built cabins in that vicinity along a
creek three miles north of Boonsboro. Benjamin Williams the same
year took a claim near where Madrid stands.
The county was organized in 1849 and attached to Polk. In 1851
commissioners were appointed to locate the county-seat and, as there
was no town yet laid out, they drove a stake in the ground near
where the first courthouse was afterward built and there established
the county-seat. A town was laid out and, upon the suggestion of S.
B. McCall, named Boonsboro and a public sale of lots was made in
October, 1851. Samuel B. McCall was the sheriff selected to
organize the county, an at the first election John M. Wayne was
chosen clerk; John M. Crooks, treasurer; S. H. Bowers, sheriff, and
W. C. Hull, prosecuting attorney. The first term of court was held
in Boonsboro in October, 1851, at which Judge William McKay
presided. The first building in the town was a two story log house
erected by W. C. Hull on the east side of the public square.
In 1865 the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad was extended
in the county to the new town of Montana which had been laid out by
John I. Blair and other builders of the railroad. This town was a
mile east of Boonsboro and the citizens of the county-seat were
required to pay a large bonus to secure the road. Feeling sure of
the road, they declined to pay the amount demanded and the
construction company turned the road toward the southwest following
the valley of Honey Creek, leaving Boonsboro a mile or more from the
line. Then began a life and death struggle between the proprietors
of Montana and the citizens of Boonsboro for supremacy which lasted
for many years. Buildings were erected in each town but in the end
the citizens of Boonsboro began to move to Montana, its name was
changed to Boone and the old county-seat became a suburb of the new
city which had absorbed its business and much of its population.
The first newspaper was established by Capron and Sanders in July,
1856, at Boonsboro and named the Boone County News.
Its editor, Luther C. Sanders, was one of the sharpest
paragraphists in the State among the pioneer editors.
The Des Moines River flows through the county from north to
south, with a heavy body of excellent timber growing along its
banks, under which are found extensive deposits of coal. The soil
of the entire county is of unsurpassed fertility.
BREMER COUNTY was organized from a portion of the extensive
territory at one time embraced in the original county of Fayette.
It lies in the third tier west of the Mississippi River, in the
third tier south of the Minnesota line and contains but twelve
townships six miles square, giving it an area of about four hundred
thirty-two square miles. In 1845 Charles McCaffrey of Scott County
made a claim in the valley of the Cedar River at the "Big Woods,"
near where the village of Jefferson stands. He built a cabin and
opened a farm and during the year other claims were made in that
vicinity by George Beeler, Andrew Sample, J. H. Messenger and
others. The early settlements were within the limits of the
Winnebago reservation and the last of the Indians remained until
1851. In 1850 Jacob Hess and Frederick Cretzmeyer settled on the
west side of the Cedar River where the town of Waverly stands.
The county was established in 1851 by act of the General Assembly
and at the suggestion of General A. K. Eaton, then a member from
Delaware County, was named for the Swedish author Frederika Bremer.
It was first attached to Buchanan County for revenue, election and
judicial purposes. In 1853 William P. Hamon settled on the east
bank of the Cedar River and laid out the town of Waverly. A log
farm was built across the river, a sawmill and log hotel erected.
The commissioners located the county-seat the same year at the new
town. John T. Barrick located six miles south of Waverly in the
spring of 1853 and laid out the town of Janesville, named for his
wife, Jane. This was the first town laid out in the county and
there the first newspaper was established in 1855, named the
Bremer County Herald and published by Phineas V. Swan. The
county was organized in 1853 and had at that time but eighty-two
voters. The first officers were Jeremiah Ferris, county judge;
Austin Ferris, sheriff; John Hunter, treasurer; and Herman A. Miles,
The first newspaper at Waverly was established on the 6th of
March, 1856, by Herman A. Miles and was called the Waverly
Republican. Richard Miles taught the first school in the county
in 1853 in a log house in Jefferson township. Judge Thomas S.
Wilson held the first term of court at Waverly in June, 1854.
BUCHANAN COUNTY is in the third tier west of the Mississippi
River and in the third south of the Minnesota line; embraces an area
of five hundred and seventy-six square miles and is divided into
twenty congressional townships. It was established in December,
1837, and at that time contained all of that portion of the original
county of Dubuque lying directly west from Delaware to the Missouri
River. The county was named for James Buchanan, afterwards
President of the United States. The name was suggested by S. P.
Stoughton a prominent Democrat of the new county. In 1843 the
territory was reduced to its present limits.
The first white man known to have settled in the county was
William Bennett who with his family came from Delaware County in
February, 1842, took a claim and built a log cabin on the east bank
of the Wapsipinicon River where Quasqueton was afterwards laid out.
Soon after S. G. and S. H. Sanford and Ezra Allen took claims in
the same vicinity. Early in the spring Dr. Edward Brewer, R. B.
Clarik and Frederick Kessler joined the first settlers. In 1845 a
post-office was established named Quasqueton with William Richards
as postmaster. The town was laid out by D. S. Davis in 1847, the
name being of Indian origin and signifying "rapid water." In 1847
the commissioners selected to locate a county-seat, chose the site
where Independence stands. Rufus B. Clark was the first to call
attention to this spot as a beautiful location for a town and ,
associating himself with N. A. McClure and S. P. Stoughton, entered
a quarter section of land embracing the water power and a portion of
the ground upon which Independence was built. In March, 1847, Mr.
Clark built a log cabin on the land thus entered which was the first
house in Independence. A dam was built across the river, a sawmill
erected, a store opened and a post-office secured by the proprietors
of the new town during the year 1848. Mr. Clark kept a hotel in his
two-room log cabin while Mr. Stoughton opened a store and kept the
post-office in his cabin. Edward Brewster practiced medicine and
kept a school in his house.
The county was organized in 1848 by the election of the following
officers: Elijah Beardsley, judge; E. D. Phelps, sheriff; S. P.
Stoughton, clerk; and Elijah Beardsley, prosecuting attorney. The
first term of the District Court was held in April, 1849, by James
Grant, judge of the Third District. In May, 1855, B. F. Parker and
James Hillery issued the first number of a newspaper named the
Independence Civilian. In December, 1856, Jacob Rich and Mr.
Jordon began the publication of the Quasqueton Guardian in
the rival town. The first railroad built into the county was the
Dubuque and Sioux City, which reached Independence in December,
During the session of the Legislature of 1868, Senator William G.
Donnan secured the passage of an act providing for the location and
building of an additional Hospital for the Insane at Independence.
BUENA VISTA COUNTY is located in the third tier from the western
boundary of the State and in the third south of the Minnesota line;
it contains sixteen congressional townships, making an area of five
hundred seventy-six square miles. This territory was originally a
part of the counties of Dubuque and Buchanan but in 1851 was formed
into a county and named to commemorate the Battle of Buena Vista.
It was first attached to the county of Wahkaw (now Woodbury) in
In May, 1856, Abner Bell of New Jersey and his brother-in law, W.
K. Weaver and family, and John W. Tucker settled in the northern
part of the county near the Little Sioux River at a point called
Sioux Rapids. Soon after Arthur T. Reeves, Moses Van Kirk, James H.
Gleason and Moses Lewis took claims in the vicinity. In the spring
of 1857 the settlers were plundered by a band of Sioux Indians under
Inkpadutah while on their way to massacre the colony at Okoboji and
Spirit lakes. The men overpowered by the savages while the women
were most brutally treated but no one was killed.
In 1859 the county government was organized by the election of
the following officers: A. T. Reeves, judge; W. K. Weaver,
treasurer; J. W. Tucker, clerk; and Abner Bell, sheriff. In 1860
the county-seat was located by commissioners in the northwest
quarter of section eighteen, township ninety-three, range thirty-six
on land belonging to W. S. Lee and the town named Prairieville but
no buildings were erected and it never advanced beyond a paper town.
While the county was sparsely settled some of the officials
entered into a conspiracy to enrich themselves by levying and
collecting taxes in large amounts for building bridges,
school-houses and the making of other public improvements.
Contracts were let to friends of these officials at enormous prices
and the profits divided. Schoolhouses were built on unsettled
prairies, non-resident taxes appropriated and when finished the
houses were occupied by favored settlers for residences. Hundreds
of thousands of dollars of county warrants were issued of which no
record was kept, then sold and traded for property. County and
school bonds were beautifully engraved and sold through brokers at a
discount which tempted eastern buyers to invest in securities which
bore ten per cent interest. When other settlers came and saw how
business had been managed, the perpetrators of the frauds fled,
leaving enormous debts standing against the county and school
districts. For many years suits were pending in the courts for the
collection of these fraudulent bonds and warrants and great odium
was brought upon the county. None of the perpetrators of these
crimes were brought to justice. But after the year 1865 the county
government passed under the control of honest settlers and the
In 1858 a Mr. Barnes laid out the town of Sioux Rapids near the
Little Sioux River and, being a man of property, hoped to be able to
build up an important place. In 1859 the Sioux Indians were again
threatening the frontier settlements and Mr. Barnes sent his
son-in-law to Fort Dodge to procure arms for the defense of the
settlers. While traveling over the unsettled prairies he was
overtaken by a blizzard and so badly frozen that both feet had to be
amputated. Mr. Barnes was so disheartened by this calamity that he
abandoned his town enterprise and left the country. "Barnes"
township and "Barnes Grove" perpetuate his memory. For many years
Sioux Rapids was the county-seat. In 1870 the town of Strom Lake
was laid out on the north shore of the beautiful lake of that name.
The original proprietor was John I. Blair, the builder of the Iowa
Falls and Sioux City Railroad, which was the first in the county.
The lake is about two miles wide by five miles long, having its
outlet in the Boyer River. In October, 1870, Vestal and Young
established the Storm Lake Pilot, a weekly newspaper, in the
new town. The Little Sioux River runs through the north part of the
county and in early days its bluffs were covered with timber.
BUNCOMBE COUNTY was established in 1851 and named for an officer
in the War of the Revolution. It was the extreme northwestern
county in the State. While bearing this name there were no
permanent settlers within its limits but for eleven years it
appeared on the map of Iowa as Buncombe County until at the extra
session of the Ninth General Assembly in September, 1862, it was
changed to Lyon.
BUTLER COUNTY is in the third tier south of the Minnesota line,
in the fourth west of the Mississippi River, and contains sixteen
congressional townships, making an area of five hundred seventy-six
square miles. It was taken from territory formerly embraced in the
counties of Fayette and Buchanan, was established in 1851 and named
for General William O. Butler, an officer in the Mexican War and
Democratic candidate for Vice-President in 1848.
The first white men who settled in the county were two brothers,
Harrison and Volney Carpenter who, in 1850, went from Linn County up
the Cedar and Shellrock rivers hunting and trapping. They were
charmed with the country and made claims and built a log cabin in a
grove where the town of Shellrock stands. In September of the same
year Henry J. Hicks and Robert T. Crowell, from Wisconsin, settled
at Coon Grove near where Clarksville has since been built. During
the winter these pioneers carried on their backs supplies for their
families from Cedar Falls. They found support through hunting,
trapping and fishing until land could be brought under cultivation.
In 1851 Jeremiah Perrin, M. A.. Taylor, Mahlon B. and William S.
Wamsley, Seth Hilton and others came and also entered land.
In 1853 the county-seat was located at Clarksville, a town laid
out by Thomas and Jeremiah Clark and D. C. Hilton, and name for the
proprietors; the plat embraced forty acres.
The first county officers were: John Palmer, judge; W. C.
Burton, clerk; Abner G. Clark, treasurer; R. T. Corwell, sheriff,
and Hardin Baird, prosecuting attorney. The permanent organization
of the county was made in October, 1854. A post-office was
established at Coon Grove in 1853 of which Abner G. Clark was the
first postmaster; later this settlement became Clarksville. In the
spring of 1855 Miss Malinda Searls opened the first school in a log
cabin at Clarksville. J. D. Thompson, judge of the Thirteenth
District held the first term of court in the county in October,
1857. In July, 1858, Palmer and James established a newspaper at
Clarksville, naming it the Butler County Transcript.
This was the first paper in the county. The Dubuque and Sioux City
Railroad was built through the south part of the county in 1865.
CALHOUN COUNTY is in the fourth tier from the north line of the
State, also in the fourth east of the Missouri River and has sixteen
townships, each six miles square, making a total area of five
hundred seventy-six square miles. It was originally named Fox but
at the session of the Legislature of 1853 a change was made to
Calhoun, in honor of the famous South Carolina Senator. Twin Lakes,
lying in the northern part of the county, cover an area of about
seventeen hundred acres and vary in depth from three to twenty feet.
The northern lake is about half a mile wide and two and one-half
miles in length.
Ebeneezer Comstock was the first white settler in the county. In
April, 1854, he moved with his family into the grove where Lake City
has since been built and here made his log cabin. His nearest
trading point was Des Moines, eighty-five miles distant. He was
soon joined by John Condron, J. C. Smith and Peter Smith from Cass
In August, 1855, the county was organized by the election of
Peter Smith, judge; Christian Smith, treasurer; Joel Golden, clerk;
William Oxenford, sheriff; and Ebeneezer Comstock, prosecuting
attorney. The election was held at the house of Christopher Smith
and the entire population of the county was less than one hundred.
The county-seat was located by a vote of the people in April, 1856,
and Charles Amy was employed to survey and plat a town which was
named Lake City. The first house on the plat was built by him in
1857 and the first store was opened the same year by Peter Smith and
Daniel Reed in a log cabin. In 1856 David Reed taught the first
school near Lake City and the Methodists organized the first
religious society the same year.
For many years in the early history of the county Charles Amy was
its treasurer and by honest and economical management of the
officials the warrants of the county were always kept at par and no
debt was incurred, a condition of affairs rare among the counties of
In June, 1859, Judge A. W. Hubbard held the first term of court
in the county. In June, 1871, B. F. Gue of Fort Dodge established
the first newspaper at Lake City named the Calhoun County Pioneer
of which E. W. Wood was the editor and manager. In early days a
good wagon road was graded from Lake City to Fort Dodge and the
streams were bridged for a distance of about forty miles over
unsettled prairies. In 1870 the first line of railroad was built
into the county, running through the northern townships. It was the
main line of the Iowa Falls and Sioux City road and the towns of
Manson and Pomeroy were built upon it. In the spring of 1876 the
county-seat was relocated on land belonging to Colonel J. M.
Rockwell nearer the center of the county where a town was laid out
and named Rockwell City. A court-house was built in the spring of
1877. A railroad reached the new county-seat in 1882.
CARROLL COUNTY was at one time a part of the large territory of
Benton but, in 1851, was established by act of the Legislature and
named for Charles Carroll, one of t he signers of the Declaration of
Independence. It lies in the third tier east of the Missouri River,
in the fifth south of the Minnesota line and contains sixteen
congressional townships, making an area of five hundred and
seventy-six square miles.
In 1854 Enos Buttrick of Greene County made a claim and built the
first log cabin in the limits of Carroll, on section two, township
eighty-two, range thirty-four. The old Indian trail known as the
"War Path," a dividing line between the Sioux and Pottawattamie
hunting grounds, ran through townships eighty-two to eighty-five,
range thirty-six. It was a well beaten path visible for many years
after the Indians were removed from the State. The penalty was
death for any Indian who should be found hunting on the land
belonging to the other tribe. The old battle-field where the last
conflict took place between these hostile tribes was near Crescent
Lake in Carroll County.
In July, 1855, the first steps were taken toward organizing a
county government in Carroll and at the August election the
following officers were chosen: A. J. Cain, judge; Levi Thompson,
clerk; James White, treasurer; J. Y. Anderson, sheriff, and L. M.
Curdy, prosecuting attorney. The population at that time was about
one hundred. The first school was opened by Jane L. Hill in the
spring of 1856 at Carrollton, a town which was that year laid out on
the middle branch of the Raccoon River in the southern part of the
county. It became the first county-seat and O. H. Manning here
established a paper named the Carroll Enterprise. The
Methodists organized the first church in the county at this place.
A term of court was held here by Judge M. F. Moore in November,
1858. The Northwestern Railroad was built in 1867 and a new town
laid out on its line near the geographical center of the county
named Carroll, which soon became the county-seat. The Carroll
Herald was started the following year by J. F. H. Sugg.
CASS COUNTY lies in the second tier east of the Missouri River in
the third north of the south line of the State and contains sixteen
townships, making an area of five hundred seventy-six squares miles.
It was within the limits of Demoine County from 1834 to 1836 and
was a part of the old county of Keokuk from 1837 to 1840. By act of
the Legislature of 1851 Cass County was established with its present
boundaries. The first white settlers within its limits were Mormons
who stopped there on their exodus from Nauvoo in 1845-6. They
established a station near the west bank of the Nishnabotna River,
two and a half miles west of the point where Lewis stands. It was
near the old Indian village of the Pottawattamies and was named
Indiantown. For many years this was the chief trading post on that
route from the Mississippi to the Missouri River.
The first permanent settlers in the county were Jeremiah
Bradshaw, V. M. Conrad, Peter Hedges, David Chapman, Joseph Everly
and J. M. Watson who took claims near Indiantown in 1852. Here
Bradshaw opened the first store in the county and a post-office was
established called Cold Springs. In the summer of 1852 R. D.
McGeehon built a log cabin and opened a farm near Turkey Creek. The
first election was held at Uniontown in August, 1852, at which but
thirteen votes were polled. The county officers were chosen in
1853, consisting of Jeremiah Bradshaw, judge; V. M. Conrad,
treasurer; C. E. Woodward, clerk; Francis E. Ball, sheriff. Thomas
G. Palmer and Milton Richards were chosen commissioners to locate
the county-seat and on the 11th of March, 1853, selected the site
where Lewis stands. This town was laid out on the east side of the
Nishnabotna River the next year and became the county-seat. The
first house was built by S. M. Tucker and the first newspaper was
established by J. C. Brown in 1861, named the Cass County Gazette.
In 1868 the town of Atlantic was located on the line of the Rock
Island Railroad which was built through the northern part of the
county in that year. After a bitter contest the county-seat was
removed from Lewis to Atlantic in November, 1869. Anita and Wiota
were located on the line of the Rock Island Railroad.
CEDAR COUNTY was established from territory embraced in the
original county of Dubuque and lies in the second tier west of the
Mississippi River and in the fifth north of the Missouri boundary
line. It contains sixteen townships, making an area of five hundred
and seventy-six square miles, and was named for the Cedar River
which flows through the county in a southeasterly direction.
The first white man known to have traveled through this county
was Colonel George Davenport who, in 1831, established a trading
post on the west side of the Cedar River just above the mouth of
Rock Creek. Poweshiek, a chief of the Fox Indians, had a village in
that vicinity where he made his headquarters and here Colonel
Davenport, through his agents, carried on a profitable trade with
the Fox Indians. The first claims made in the county were taken by
Colonel Davenport, Antoine LeClaire, Major William Gordon and
Alexander McGregor. These men went about twenty-five miles west of
Davenport to a fine body of timber which was afterward named "Posten's
Grove" and staked out claims embracing all of the timber land. From
there they passed on to Onion Grove and took possession of that
timber land by the same process, all for purposes of speculation.
Neglecting to comply with the claim laws, however, by making actual
settlement, they were unable to hold these valuable lands. A few
months later David W. Walton of Indiana made a claim on Sugar Creek,
a name he gave to the stream owing to the sugar maples growing along
its banks. He built a cabin and early the following spring moved
his family to the new home. They were probably the first permanent
settlers in the county. In May, 1836, Enos Nye of Ohio took a claim
on the bank of Cedar River four miles west of Walton's. In June,
1836, Andrew Crawford and Robert G. Roberts made claims in the
central part of the county. In July of the same year James Posten
made a claim in the eastern part of the county in the grove which
bears his name. George McCoy and Stephen Toney settled on the east
bank of the Cedar River n 1836 where McCoy established a ferry. In
August McCoy and Toney laid out a town which they named Rochester,
for the city of that name in New York. Benjamin Nye opened the
first store and built a mill near the mouth of Rock Creek. Rev.
Martin Baker, a Christian minister, was the pioneer preacher in the
county, beginning services in 1836. Moses B. Church taught the
first school in 1837 at the house of Colonel Henry Hardman.
In 1837 Rochester was made the county-seat and there the first
election was held in March, 1838, at which the following officers
were elected: Christian Holderman, treasurer; Robert G. Roberts,
register, and Richard Ransford, J. M. Oaks and Joseph Wilford,
commissioners. The first court was held in May, 1838, at Rochester,
Judge David Irwin presiding. In 1839 commissioners were chosen by
the Legislature to select a location for permanent county-seat. The
site was located near the geographical center of the county and
named Tipton for General John Tipton, United States Senator from
Indiana. A town was platted in 1840 by John G. Tolman, the county
surveyor, on a claim made in 1836 by William M. Knott, and the first
sale of lots took place on the 15th of June. A fierce contest was
waged for several years between Rochester and Tipton for the
county-seat which was finally settled by a vote of the people in
1852 in favor of Tipton.
On the 6th of April, 1850, the first newspaper was established in
Tipton named the Tipton Times and Cedar County Conservative
which was succeeded in 1853 by the Cedar County Advertiser.
In 1855 the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad was built from
Davenport through the southern part of the county. Previous to 1853
the county had voted aid to the Lyons and Iowa Central Railroad
Company which proposed to build from Lyons by way of Tipton to Iowa
City. This company caused grading to be done near Tipton and
secured bonds of the county for $20,000 to aid the work but never
built the road.
CERRO GORDO COUNTY lies in the second tier south of the Minnesota
line, in the fifth west of the Mississippi River and is twenty-four
miles square embracing twenty-four congressional townships, making
an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles. It was
established from the original county of Fayette in 1851 and named
for battle-field of the Mexican War.
In July, 1851, Joseph Hewitt and James Dickinson, who were
hunting near Clear Lake, were so delighted with the beautiful
country bordering it that they built cabins on the south and west
shores and, sending for their families, became the first white
settlers in the new county. They were fifty miles from the nearest
neighbor and were frequently visited by parties of Winnebago Indians
who came to the lake to hunt and trap. In 1853 David and Edwin
Wright made claims about three miles north of where Mason City
stands. In September of the same year Anson C. Owens settled at a
grove which bears his name in the eastern part of the county. James
and Robert Serrine took claims at the east end of Clear Lake the
same year. John B. Long and John L. McMillan soon after settled on
the ground where Mason City stands. Clear Lake is a beautiful body
of water about six miles long by two miles wide and its greatest
depth is about twenty-five feet. The Shellrock River flows through
the northeastern portion of the county.
In 1854 the town of Mason City was laid out and the first store
was opened by J. L. McMillan one of the proprietors of the new town
site. The town of Clear Lake was laid out in the fall of 1856 by
James Dickinson on the east end of the lake which bears the same
Judge Samuel Murdock of the District Court in 1855 appointed
commissioners to locate the county-seat. They selected Mason City.
Most of the early settlers in that town were members of the Masonic
order and the settlement was first called "Masonic Grove" but when
the town was platted in 1854 was named Mason City, by and for that
fraternity. The first school in the county was taught by Liza
Gardner, a daughter of Rowland Gardner who, with most of his family,
perished in the Spirit Lake massacre in the spring of 1857. Eliza
was fortunately absent from home at the time and thus escaped the
fate of her father's family.
The first newspaper in the county was established at Mason City
by Datus E. Coon in 1858, and named the Cerro Gordo Press.
Its proprietor became a prominent officer in the Union army during
the Civil War. The first railroad was completed from McGregor to
Clear Lake, through Mason City, in 1870 by the Milwaukee and St.
CHEROKEE COUNTY is in the second tier east of the west boundary
of the State and in the third south of the Minnesota line, is
twenty-four miles square and contains five hundred seventy-six
square miles. Its territory was at one time divided between Fayette
and Dubuque counties but in 1851 it was established with the present
boundaries as Cherokee County, being named for a southern tribe of
Indians. It was first attached to Wahkaw County in 1853.
In 1856 a colony from Milford, Massachusetts, selected lands near
the center of Cherokee County for a settlement. There were about
fifty members of the association most of whom were mechanics. The
following named members with their families moved onto their lands
the same year: Dr. Dwight Russell, Dr. Slocum, G. W. Lebourvean, B.
W. Sawtell, Lysander Sawtell, Albert Simon, Daniel Wheeler, Lemuel
Parkhurst, Albert Phipps, Carlton Corbett, J. A. Brown, A. J.
Slayton, Robert Hammond and Benjamin Holbrook. Each member took
about a hundred acres of the lands which had been entered. A large
body of timber was taken along the Little Sioux River which was
divided among the members of the colony. Dr. Dwight Russell built
the first house, a log cabin in which nine families were sheltered
until additional houses could be erected.
During the year 1856 twelve families formed another settlement in
the southern part of the county near the Little Sioux River, in the
vicinity of Pilot Rock. This immense rock was in early days a
well-known landmark which could be seen at a great distance over the
unsettled prairies. It was a red granite boulder about sixty feet
long by forty wide rising above the surface about twenty feet, near
the river on the east side of a high point of land. Many mounds are
found in this county north of the town of Cherokee which are
believed to be the work of the ancient "mound builders."
The first colony laid out the town of Cherokee on the west side
of the Little Sioux River in 1856 and it became the county-seat. In
the spring of 1857 Inkpaduta's band of Sioux Indians on their way to
perpetrate the massacre at Okoboji, robbed many of the settlers in
Cherokee County and killed many of their cattle. Later in the
season a stockade was erected at Cherokee for protection and a
company of soldiers stationed to protect the settlements in that
part of the State.
The county was organized in August, 1857, and at the election the
following persons were chosen for the first county officials: A. P.
Thayer, judge; B. W. Sawtell, clerk; G. W. Labourvean, treasurer and
recorder; S. W. Hayward, sheriff; and Carlton Corbett, prosecuting
attorney. The Iowa Falls and Sioux City Railroad was built through
the county in 1870 and in January of that year J. P. Ford issued the
first number of the Cherokee Chief. The railroad was located
some distance from the old town and gradually a new town grew up
near the station. One of the Hospitals for the Insane has been
recently located at Cherokee.
CHICKASAW COUNTY at one time a part of Fayette, was created by
act of the Legislature in 1851, and named for a southern tribe of
Indians. When first established Chickasaw extended three miles
further north than its present boundary which was fixed in 1855. It
lies in the third tier west of the Mississippi River and in the
second south of Minnesota with an area of five hundred four square
The first settlement within its limits was made in 1848 by Truman
Merritt near Greenwood. In 1852 J. A. Bird and John Bird made
claims near the junction of the Little Cedar and the Red Cedar
River. They there built a cabin and during the season several other
families took claims near them. In 1854 James Jared took a claim on
the land where New Hampton now stands and before the close of the
year settlements were made in other parts of the county in the
vicinity of woodland. Chickasaw was attached to Fayette until 1853
when John Bird was authorized by the judge of Fayette County to
organize the county. The first legal election was held in August at
which the following officers were chosen: James Lyon, judge; S. C.
Goddard, clerk; John Campbell, treasurer and recorder; Andrew
Sample, sheriff; and N. D. Babcock, prosecuting attorney. In 1854
the county-seat was located at Bradford, a new town near the
southwest corner of the county. The first term of court was held
there in June, 1854, by Judge T. S. Wilson of Dubuque. New Hampton
was laid out near the geographical center of the county and soon
became a competitor for the county-seat. The first attempt at
removal was defeated but in 1858 New Hampton was successful.
The first newspaper in the county was established at Jacksonville
in 1857 by Isaac Watson and was called the Chickasaw County
Republican but after three years it was suspended. In 1860 W. E.
Beach started the Courier at New Hampton. Nashua is the second town
of importance and is located on the Cedar River in the southwestern
corner of the county. The first railroad to enter the county was
the Milwaukee and St. Paul which runs through New Hampton.
CLARKE COUNTY lies in the second tier north of the Missouri line,
in the seventh west of the Mississippi River and contains twelve
congressional townships embracing an area of four hundred thirty-two
square miles. It was originally a part of Demoine County but in
January, 1846, the new county was established and named for James
Clarke who was then Governor of Iowa Territory. The boundaries
formerly included the east half of Union County but did not then
embrace the eastern tier of townships. In 1849 the boundaries were
changed and the county assumed its present form. In 1846, when the
Mormon exodus from Nauvoo took place, John and James Longley and
John Conger, with their families, became separated from one of the
trains and camped six miles south of where Osceola stands. Not
being able to find the train they decided to remain where they were,
open farms and make homes. The place was long known as "Lost Camp"
and became the first settlement in Clarke county. In the spring
they found other families of Mormons who had made homes but a few
miles from them and all remained and became prosperous farmers. In
1850 Robert Jamison, A. Colier, Bernard and James G. Arnold, J.
Ellis, John Shearer and William Overton settled in the southern part
of the county. Soon after a colony from Van Buren County came and
laid out the town of Hopeville near the west line of the county,
settling in that vicinity.
In 1851 the county was organized by the election of the following
officers: John A. Lindsley, judge; Alonzo R. Williams, clerk; G. W.
Glenn, treasurer, and Ivison Ellis, sheriff. The commissioners
chosen to locate the county-seat selected a farm entered by George
W. Howe, which was purchased for one hundred dollars and the town of
Osceola laid out upon it. George W. Howe built the first house in
Osceola in 1851 in which he opened the first store in the county.
At a sale of lots in October eighty-five were sold at an average
price of twenty-two dollars each. The first term of court was held
in 1853 by Judge J. S. Townsend. At the general election in August,
1852, but eighty-one votes were polled. The first newspaper was
established in 1858 by G. S. Pike and T. R. Oldham and named the
Osceola Courier. The Burlington and Missouri Railroad was built
through the county and through the town of Osceola, and completed to
the Missouri River in 1868.
CLAY COUNTY is in the second tier south of the Minnesota line, in
the third east of the western boundary of the State and contains
sixteen congressional townships embracing an area of five hundred
seventy-six square miles. It was created in 1851 and named for
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Clay, Jr., who was killed at the Battle of
Buena Vista in the Mexican War. In January, 1853, Clay County was
attached to Wahkaw for judicial and election purposes.
In July, 1856, the first white settlers came and took claims in
the woods on the south side of the Little Sioux River in the
southwest corner of the county. They were Christian Kirchner and
Andrew S. Mead with their families and John J. Bicknell. They built
cabins and broke up prairie for farms. In the fall Ezra Wilcox,
James Bicknell and two brothers named Gillett brought their families
and settled in the same vicinity. A town was laid out on the river
bluff and named Peterson which became the first county-seat. In the
spring of 1857 Inkpaduta's band of Sioux Indians stopped in this
settlement, robbed the people, killed or drove off about fifty head
of cattle and fourteen horses belonging to Kirchner, Mead and
Gillett, shot their hogs and destroyed much other property. The
settlers were so few in number that they were unable to defend their
homes and possessions. A deep show covered the ground, the cold was
intense and the few isolated settlers had all they could do to
defend their families from the savages.
The county was organized in October, 1858, by the election of the
following officers: C. C. Smeltzer, judge; S. M. Foreman,
treasurer, and E. M. Wilcox, clerk. John A. Kirchner built a dam
across the river and erected the first saw and grist mill in that
part of the State. The public business was recklessly managed for
many years, fastening a heavy indebtedness upon the county which
brought it into bad repute and retarded settlement. The officials
who were responsible for these disreputable transactions were, as
the county settled up, dislodged from the control of the county
business and the large bonded indebtedness was declared illegal by
the courts. In 1859 George E. Spencer of Jasper County made a claim
on the west side of the Little Sioux River near the geographical
center of the county, laid out a town giving it his own name.*
In 1869 the town of Spencer was established on the east side of the
river where a flourishing town grew up which became the county-seat.
In 1878 the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad was built through the
county from east to west through the town of Spencer. The first
newspaper was the Clay County News which was established at
Spencer in January, 1871.
*George E. Spencer became a
distinguished officer in the Civil War, and after peace was
established settled in Alabama, where he was elected to the United
CLAYTON COUNTY is the first west of the Mississippi River in the
second tier south of Minnesota and contains twenty-four townships
making an area of seven hundred ninety-two square miles. It was
first created in December, 1837, and then contained a portion of the
present county of Allamakee. The county was named for John M
Clayton a United States Senator from Delaware.
The first settlement (after the Spanish grant to Basil Giard in
1795) was made by Robert Hetfield, William D. Grant and William W.
Wyman and families in the spring of 1832. They made claims on the
north side of the Turkey River about four miles from its mouth. In
1836 other settlers came, among whom was Dr. Frederick Andros, who
took a claim about a mile southeast of where Granavillo stands.
John W. Gillett and a Mr. Loomis took claims in the same vicinity
and opened farms. The same year Elisha Boardman settled upon the
land where Elkader has been built. Prairie La Porte was laid out in
1837 and in 1847 the name was changed to Guttenburg. It was the
first county-seat where the first term of court was held in a log
cabin occupied by Herman Graybill and family. It convened in May,
1838, and was presided over by Judge Charles Dunn. At this time a
portion of Minnesota was embraced in Wisconsin Territory and in the
county of Clayton.
The county was fully organized in the fall of 1838. In 1843 the
county-seat was removed to the new town of Jacksonville and in 1846
the name was changed to Garnavillo. In 1847 the town of Elkader was
platted by Thompson, Davis and Sage who built a mill on the Turkey
River at that place. The first houses were built by Elisha Boardman
and H. D. Bronson in 1836 on the land where the new town was
located. Elkader first became the county-seat in 1856, lost it for
a time but permanently regained it in 1860. In 1855 Elias H.
Williams was elected first county judge.
The first newspaper published between Dubuque and St. Paul on the
west side of the Mississippi River was the Clayton County
Herald. It was established in January, 1853, by H. S. Granger
at Garnavillo and two years later sold to A. W. Dripps who changed
the name to the Journal. Dripps was Captain of Company A, in
the ninth Iowa Infantry in the Civil War and was killed at the
Battle of Pea Ridge.
McGregor, the largest town in the county, was laid out in 1847 by
Alexander McGregor. In 1836 he established a ferry across the
Mississippi River at this place opposite the old French town of
Prairie du Chien. Soon after he made a claim where the town of
McGregor stands and built a log cabin at the foot of Main street.
In 1847 he moved his family into it and a store and public house
were soon opened. For many years the village which grew up was
called McGregor's Landing. The ravine where the town was located
was named by the early French traders "Coolie de Sioux." The bluffs
here rise to the height of nearly four hundred feet and overlook the
mouth of the Wisconsin River and the adjacent country for a great
The first newspaper in McGregor was established by Colonel A. P.
Richardson in October, 1856. The first railroad constructed in the
county was the McGregor Western which was built west in 1857. This
company secured a large land grant but failing to comply with the
requirements the lands were given to the Milwaukee and St. Paul
Company which completed the road west to Sheldon in 1878.
CLINTON COUNTY was created in December, 1837, from territory
embraced in the original county of Dubuque. It was named for De
Witt Clinton the illustrious Governor of New York, contains an area
of seven hundred twenty square miles and lies on the Mississippi
River in the fifth tier south of the Minnesota line extending
farther eastward than any other county in the State. The city of
Clinton lies farther east by more than sixty miles than Keokuk, both
on the Mississippi River. Clinton and Jackson are the most easterly
counties in the great bend of the Mississippi River forming the east
boundary of Iowa. The Wapsipinicon River enters the county from the
northwest and forms a large portion of the boundary line separating
Clinton from Scott County.
In July, 1835, Elisha Buel crossed the Mississippi and made a
claim where Lyons was laid out. In 1836 James D. Bourne who was an
agent of the American Fur Company established a post and made a
claim on the Wapsipinicon, becoming a permanent citizen. He was the
first postmaster in the county and kept the office named Monroe
which was on the mail route from Davenport to Dubuque. He also kept
a ferry across the Wapsipinicon at that place. During the year 1836
Dr. George Peck made a claim on the banks of the Mississippi and
laid out the town of Camanche, named for an Indian tribe. Joseph M.
Bartlett made a claim two miles below Buel's the same year and built
a log cabin. He opened a store and laid out a town where Clinton
stands, which he named New York. In 1837 Mr. Buel, G. W. Harlan and
Suel Foster laid out the town of Lyons. Eli Goddard, D. C. Bourne,
W. D. Follett and others settled in various parts of the county
during the following year.
In February, 1838, the county-seat was established by a vote of
the people at Camanche. The county was fully organized in 1840 and
the first election was held April 6th in the house of Lyman Evans at
Camanche. In 1841 three commissioners were chosen by the
Legislature to relocate the county-seat. They selected a place
twenty miles west of the Mississippi and gave it the name of
Vandenburg. A log court-house and hotel were built and the
court-house was used for school and church purposes. J. Wood was
the first school teacher in the county. The name of the town was
soon changed to De Witt and the county-seat remained there about
thirty-five years, when it was removed to Clinton.
Clinton was laid out on the old site of New York in 1855 by the
Iowa Land Company. The Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad Company
was organized in 1856 to build a railroad from Clinton to the
Missouri River. The road was pushed with energy and was the first
to cross the State, reaching Council Bluffs in the fall of 1867.
The first newspaper in the county was established at Camanche in
1854 by Bates and Kanapp and named the Camanche Chief. In
June, 1860, Camanche was destroyed by the great tornado which swept
through central Iowa that year. A railroad bridge was built across
the Mississippi at Clinton and in the course of years Lyons and
Clinton grew together and became one city.
COOK COUNTY was established from territory originally embraced in
Demoine County, on the 7th of December, 1836. It included a portion
of Scott County and other territory not clearly defined. The county
was never organized and the following year the territory was divided
among other counties created by act of the Legislature of December
21, 1837. The origin of the name given it is not known.
CRAWFORD COUNTY lies in the second tier east of the Missouri
River and in the fifth south of the Minnesota line. It has
twenty-four townships containing an area of seven hundred twenty
square miles and was named for William H. Crawford who was Secretary
of the Treasury from 1817 to 1825 and a candidate for President in
1824. The county was created in 1851 from territory originally
embraced in Benton but at that time did not include the four western
townships. In 1853 it was attached to Shelby County and in 1855 was
organized at the April election by choice of the following officers:
E. W. Fowler, judge; Thomas Dobson, clerk; A. R. Hunt, treasurer;
D. J. Fowler, sheriff; and Cyrus Whitmore, prosecuting attorney.
The present boundaries were established in 1865.
The first settlers were Franklin Prentiss, Cornelius Dunham and
their families, who with Reuben Blake took claims on the East Boyer
River in a grove about six miles east of where Denison stands, in
the year 1849. The place was long known as Dunham Grove. Jesse
Mason, George J. and Noah V. Johnson settled the next year at
Mason's Grove on the West Boyer. J. W. Denison came to the county
in 1855 and entered a large tract of land for the Providence Western
Land Company. In 1856 he laid out the town of Denison, and with
others began the erection of houses.
The first school-house was built at Mason's Grove in 1856 in
which Morris McHenry taught the first school in the county. The
Methodists organized the first church at Mason's Grove in October,
1856, through the efforts of Rev. William Black who was a pioneer
preacher in that part of the State. S. J. Comfort was the first
lawyer in the county in 1867, following down the Boyer valley to
CROCKER COUNTY was created by act of the Legislature of 1870,
embracing the northern part of Kossuth County which had at one time
made the county of Bancroft. It was named for General M. M. Crocker
of Iowa, a distinguished officer of the Civil War. The county-seat
was located at Greenwood and the organization was completed in
October, 1870, by the election of the following officers: George V.
Davis, auditor; Cyrus Hawks, clerk; William Gibbon, treasurer; A. J.
Garfield, recorder; J. H. Coffin, sheriff; Sarah A. Littlefield,
superintendent of schools.
In December, 1871, the Supreme Court of Iowa declared the act
creating this county a violation of the Constitution, which in
article eleven declares that no new county shall be created which
contains less than four hundred thirty-two square miles. Crocker
County thus ceased to exist from and after the rendition of that
decision and its territory reverted to Kossuth.
DALLAS COUNTY lies in the fourth tier north of the Missouri State
line, in the fifth east of the Missouri River and was formerly
included in the county of Keokuk. On the 17th of January, 1846, the
county was created and named for George M. Dallas, then
Vice-President of the United States. It contains sixteen
congressional townships with an area of five hundred eighty-eight
square miles. The Indians continued to occupy the county until the
beginning of the year 1846 and soon after it was opened to
settlement by whites.
On the 12th of March, 1846, Samuel Miller took a claim in the
central part of the county near the Raccoon River and built a cabin.
Soon after Wilson Miller, John Wright, Levi A. Davis and others
made claims in the fine groves in that vicinity. During the year
many settlers came to different parts of the county and opened
farms. Samuel Miller built the first mill in that region which was
run by horse power.
The county was organized in February, 1847, and commissioners
chosen to locate the county-seat. They selected a site in May, a
town was laid out and named Panouoch, a word of Indian origin. The
claim upon which the town was platted had been taken in 1846 by
Elijah T. Miller of which he conveyed a part to the county. S. K.
Scovell, the clerk of the county, built the first house for an
office and Benjamin Green opened the first store. The first term of
court was held by Judge Carlton in September, 1847. In 1849 the
name of the town was changed to Adel. The first newspaper was
established in 1856 by Rippey and Reed and named the Ship of
State. The Des Moines Valley Railroad was constructed through
the county from the southeast during 1869-70 and several towns were
laid out on its line. Among them were Dallas Center and Perry, the
latter the largest town in the county. Redfield, laid out on the
Raccoon River, was established by Colonel James Redfield who was
killed in the Civil War.
Upon the organization of Dallas County the following offices were
chosen: Samuel Miller, clerk; L. A. Davis, recorder and treasurer;
J. K. Miller, sheriff, and W. W. Miller, surveyor.
DAVIS COUNTY is in the third tier west of the Mississippi River
on the south line of the State and embraces an area of five hundred
three square miles, as the southern tier of townships is divided by
the State line. It was formerly included in the original county of
Demoine and afterwards in Van Buren but was created with its present
boundaries in 1844 and named for Garret Davis a Kentucky statesman.
As early as 1837 hunters and trappers built cabins in the
southern part of the county long before the Sac and Fox Indians had
been removed. In 1837 James H. Jordon established a trading post
among these Indians on the banks of the Des Moines River in the
northeast corner of the county, Van Caldwell and others located
near him in 1839-40. In 1842 a post-office was established in the
county on the extreme western limits of the Black Hawk Purchase, at
a point called Fox, with S. A. Evans as postmaster.
The county was organized in 1844 by the election of the following
officers: S. W. McAtee, W. D. Evans and Abraham Weaver,
commissioners; Calvin Taylor, treasurer; Israel Kister, recorder; F.
C. Humble, sheriff, and Franklin Street, clerk. The county-seat was
located at Bloomfield and the first term of court was held in
September, 1844, with Judge Charles Mason presiding. James H.
Cowles had, in 1846, entered the land upon which Bloom field was
located and conveyed it to the commissioners who had there
established the county-seat. The town was platted the same summer
and a post-office secured. The first merchant in the new town was
John Lucas who had taken a claim adjoining it in 1844, upon which he
had built a log cabin occupied by his family and used also for his
store. Hosea B. Horn built the first frame house in Bloomfield in
1849. In 1854 the first newspaper was started by George Johnson
named the Western Gazette.
DECATUR COUNTY lies on the south line of the State and in the
fifth tier east of the Missouri River. It embraces an area of five
hundred thirty-four square miles, was taken from the original county
of Demoine and in January, 1846, established with present
boundaries. The county was named for Commodore Stephen Decatur a
distinguished naval officer in the War of 1812.
The first settlers were William Hamilton, Reuben and James
Hatfield, Alfred Stanley, John McDaniel, John E. Logan and Allen
Scott who came from 1838 to 1840, supposing they were settling in
Missouri. A number of them brought slaves which were held by them
until it was decided that they could not hold them as such in Iowa.
The county was organized on the 1st of April, 1850, by the
election of the following officers: Josiah Morgan, William Hamilton
and Asa Burrill, commissioners; Henry B. Norton, clerk; J. J.
Stanley, sheriff. On the 21st of July, 1851, the county-seat was
located by commissioners chosen for that purpose at a place which
was named Decatur. W. Westcoat was employed to survey and plat the
town and a sale of lots was held in August, 1851. A log court-house
was built in October. The first session of court was held in the
log cabin of Daniel Moat in May, 1851, at which Judge McKay
presided. In 1853 the county-seat was ordered by vote of the people
to a more central location, where a town was laid out and named
Independence. A new court-house was built of brick; and, by act of
the Legislature in 1854, the name of the new county-seat was changed
to Leon. A claim had been made by Thomas East and a log cabin built
on the ground where Leon stands before it was chosen for the
county-seat. The next house was built by Judge S. C. Thompson soon
after the town was platted. I. N. Clark opened the first store in
September, 1853. The first newspaper in the county was the Leon
Pioneer, established in 1855 by P. H. and George Binkley.
DELAWARE COUNTY is the second west of the Mississippi River in
the third tier south of the Minnesota line and contains sixteen
townships embracing an area of five hundred seventy-six squares
miles. It was named for the State of Delaware and was created on
the 21st of December, 1837, and at that time attached to Dubuque.
In the summer of 1836, William Bennett, the first settler, made a
claim in a grove in the limits of the county and built a log cabin.
The place was afterwards known as Eagle Grove. The next summer two
brothers named Livingston, Hugh Rose and others, all Scotch, moved
from the Red River country and settled in Delaware County at a place
which became known as Scotch Grove. Early in 1838 Joel Bailey and
John Keeler settled on the banks of the Maquoketa River and opened
farms. The place took the name of Bailey's Ford. The county was
organized in August, 1841, by the election of the following
officers: W. H. Whiteside, Daniel Brown and William Eads, county
commissioners, and Le Roy Jackson, sheriff. The county-seat was
located at this election and a town laid out by Joel Bailey on the
ground chosen on the 5th of April, 1842, which was named Delhi. The
following summer Charles H. Hobbs built a log cabin on the town site
and for two years he and his family were the only inhabitants of
Delhi. A post-office was established and Mrs. Hobbs was the
postmistress, keeping the office at her home. In the spring of 1845
John W. Clark, A. K. Eaton, William Phillips, Thomas Norris and
Joseph Mitchell came with their families to Delhi. In 1844 the
citizens assembled from the various settlements, cut trees, hewed
and drew the logs to a high point overlooking Silver Lake and built
a court-house eighteen by twenty-four feet in size and two stories
high. The first term of court had been held before the court-house
was built in September, 1844, at which Judge T. S. Wilson presided.
Miss Roxy Brown taught the first school in the court-house in the
summer of 1846. The first settlement in the vicinity of Manchester
was made in 1850 by a Norwegian who built a cabin and opened a farm.
In 1855 the claim was purchased by Allan Love who in company with
O. P. Reeves and L. Burrington projected a town. In 1856 it was
sold to the Iowa Land Company which resurveyed and platted the town
of Manchester. In 1850 the town of Hopkinton was laid out by
William Nicholson, on ground which he had taken in 1838. Lenox
College was established here in the same year by the Presbyterians.
In 1853 the first newspaper was established in the county by Datus
E. Coon and named the Delhi Argus. When the Dubuque and
Sioux City Railroad was extended through the county it ran three
miles north of Delhi, which was a fatal blow, as Manchester secured
the railroad and eventually the county-seat.
DES MOINES COUNTY as first established in 1834 embraced nearly
one-half of the territory of the future State of Iowa. But in
December, 1836, the counties of Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Louisa,
Muscatine and Cook were created from territory within its limits.
It was named for the Des Moines River and in January, 1838, was
reduced to nearly its present boundaries, lying on the Mississippi
River in the second tier north of the Missouri State line. It has
an area of but four hundred thirteen square miles. An account of
the early settlements of Burlington and this county will be found
DICKINSON COUNTY lies along the Minnesota line in the third tier
east of the western boundary of the State. It is one of the
smallest of counties containing but four hundred five square miles,
was originally a part of Fayette but in 1851 was created with its
present boundaries and first attached to Polk. The county was named
for Daniel S. Dickinson, a distinguished New York statesman and
contains several of the most beautiful lakes in the west, among
which are East and West Okoboji, Spirit Lake, Silver Lake and Swan
Lake. It is estimated that the lakes in the county cover an area of
about fifty square miles. A history of the first settlements and
their extermination by the Sioux Indians is given in another place.
In the year 1857, after the massacre, other settlers came to the
county and made homes about the lakes. Among them were R. A. Smith,
Dr. J. S. Prescott, B. F. Parmenter, R. U. Wheelock, O. C. Howe,
Henry Barkman, Morris Markham and George E. Spencer. In 1857 a town
was laid out on the peninsula, formed by Spirit Lake and East
Okoboji, by George E. Spencer, O. C. Howe and B. F. Parmenter and
named Spirit Lake; this became the county-seat. The first officers
of the county were elected in 1857, as follows: Judge, O. C. Howe;
recorder and treasurer, M. A. Blanchard; clerk of District Court, R.
A. Smith; sheriff, C. F. Hill; prosecuting attorney, B. F. Parmenter.
In August, 1870, Orson Rice established the Spirit Lake Beacon,
the first newspaper in the county, at the county-seat. The editor
was A. W. Osborne and the paper was printed the first year at the
office of the Northern Vindicator, at Esterville in Emmet
The beauty of the lakes and groves of Dickinson County annually
attracts thousands of tourists from a distance during the summer.
Hotels, cottages, scores of boats of all classes and other
accommodations have made Okoboji and Spirit Lake most delightful
DUBUQUE COUNTY as originally established in 1834 embraced more
than half of the future State of Iowa but was reduced to its present
limits in 1837. It lies on the Mississippi River in the third tier
south of the Minnesota line and embraces an area of six hundred one
square miles. The county was named for Julien Dubuque, the first
white man who made his home within the limits of Iowa. The first
election was held in October, 1836, in which the citizens voted for
delegate in Congress and members of the Territorial Legislature of
Michigan. John King was the first county judge after Iowa Territory
was created. Further particulars of the early settlements of the
county have been given elsewhere.