EMMET COUNTY, originally included in the limits of
Fayette, was created by act of the Legislature in 1851 with its
present boundaries and named for the Irish patriot Robert Emmet.
Its northern boundary is the Minnesota line, it is the fourth
county from the western limits of the State and contains twelve
townships embracing an area of four hundred four square miles. East
and west branches of the Des Moines River flow southeasterly through
the county and it contains several beautiful lakes. In 1856 George
and William Granger, R. E. and A. H. Ridley, Henry and Adolphus
Jenkins, Jesse Coverdale and D. W. Hoyt made claims in the vicinity
of a beautiful grove where Esterville stands. A strong stockade was
built near the river in 1857 to protect the settlers from the Sioux
Indians and a company of soldiers was stationed there. In 1858 a
town was laid out by Adolphus Jenkins, R. E. Ridley and Jesse
Coverdale and named Esterville for Esther A. Ridley, the wife of one
of the proprietors, who was the pioneer woman of the settlement and
the only one during the first winter. R. E. Ridley built the first
house in the new town.
The county was organized in February, 1859, and the following
officers chosen: Adolphus Jenkins, judge; Jesse Coverdale, clerk;
R. E. Ridley, treasurer; and A. H. Ridley, sheriff. The county-seat
was located at Esterville by L. H. Smith and O. C. Howe,
commissioners, appointed by Judge A. W. Hubbard of Sioux City. The
first newspaper was established in 1868 at Estherville by O. C.
Bates and Eaton Northrop and named the Northern Vindicator.
FAYETTE COUNTY, as originally established in December,
1837, was the largest county in the United States. It extended to
the British Dominions on the north and from the Mississippi River
west to the White Earth, thus embracing nearly all of the present
State of Minnesota and all of the Dakotas east of the Missouri and
White Earth rivers, making a total area of nearly 140,000 square
miles. In 1847 the county was reduced to its present boundaries,
lying directly west of Clayton and north of Buchanan. It contains
twenty townships embracing an area of seven hundred twenty squares
miles and was named for the Marquis de Lafayette.
An Indian trader named George Culver was the first white man to
build a cabin in the county in the spring of 1841, in Illyria
township. In 1842 Andrew Hensley came to Fairfield township where
he settled with his family. Other families soon after located in
various parts of the county. In 1850 it was organized by the
election of the following officers: Thomas Woodle, judge; J. W.
Neff, sheriff; J. A. Cook, treasurer, and William Wells, Charles
Sawyer and Jared Taylor, commissioners. Judge Thomas S. Wilson held
the first term of court in July, 1852, at West Union. This town was
laid out in the fall of 1849 by William Wells, J. W. Rogers and
Jacob L. Brand. The first house was built by J. W. Rogers the same
year. In 1850 a post-office was secured and Mr. Rogers was
appointed postmaster. A store was opened by Daniel Cook and a log
school-house was built in which a school was opened by J. S. Pence.
In 1851 West Union was made the county-seat by a vote of the
people. In 1853 an effort was made to move the county-seat but at
an election a majority decided it should remain at West Union. On
the 21st of October John Gharky issued the first number of a weekly
newspaper named the Fayette County Pioneer.
The first settler on the site of the town of Fayette was a man by
the name of Mullican who took a claim in 1846 and sold it in 1849 to
Robert Alexander. In 1850-51 a settlement was made a mile west of
the Alexander farm where a town was laid out and named Westfield by
Robert Alexander who had sold the Mullican place. In 1856 Samuel H.
Robertson who owned the Mullican farm laid out a town upon it which
he named Fayette. For several years there was a sharp rivalry
between the two towns but eventually Fayette became the larger and
the Upper Iowa University was located there.
The first settlement at Clermont was made in the spring of 1849
by Andrew Moats. John Thompson purchased large tracts of land on
each side of Turkey River as soon as they came into market and laid
out a town which he named Norway, afterwards changed to Clermont.
In 1872 the Burlington and Cedar Rapids Railroad was built into the
FLOYD COUNTY lies in the second tier south of the
Minnesota line, and in the fourth west of the Mississippi River. It
contains an area of five hundred four square miles and was named for
William Floyd, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence
from the State of New York. Floyd was at one time included in the
old county of Fayette, but was made a separate county in 1851. When
first established the north line was three miles north of the
present northern boundary which was fixed July 1, 1855.
In 1850 Joseph Kelley ascended the Cedar valley to the old
village of the Winnebago Indians, which had stood in a large forest.
Here Kelley staked out a claim where Charles City now stands.
Jerome Watson the same year took a claim farther down the river.
Soon after C. P. Burroughs, Joseph Hewett and H. M. Brown took
claims six miles above Kelley's near the river. In the summer of
1853 Mr. Kelley platted a town on his land and named it St. Charles
for his eldest son. In 1854 he built a log house on the town plat
and also constructed a dam across the river and erected a saw mill.
Soon after he changed the name to Charles City.
The county was organized in August, 1854, by the election of the
following officers: John M. Hunt, judge; S. C. Goddard, clerk;
David Wiltse, prosecuting attorney; William Montgomery, sheriff; C.
M. Burroughs, school fund commissioner, and D. B. Mead,
superintendent of schools. Charles City was made the county-seat as
soon as the organization was completed and several attempts were
made to secure its removal which were not successful.
The first newspaper established was the Charles City
Intelligencer, the first number of which was issued on the 31st
of July, 1856, by A. B. F. Hildreth and D. D. W. Carver. In July,
1855, the town of Floyd was laid out about six miles north of
Charles City by James Griffith and Henry Tatum. Here the first
bridge across the Cedar River was built. The town of Rockford was
laid out on the banks of the Shellrock River in the western part of
the county in June, 1856, by men from Rockford, Illinois. The first
railroad built through the county was the Milwaukee and St. Paul,
running from east to west.
FOX COUNTY was created by act of the General Assembly in
1851 and named for the Fox Indians. It was attached to Polk County,
but never organized under that name. In January, 1853, the name was
changed to Calhoun.
FRANKLIN COUNTY lies in the third tier south of Minnesota
and in the fifth west of the Mississippi River. It contains sixteen
townships making an area of fine hundred seventy-six square miles,
and was named for Benjamin Franklin of Revolutionary fame. The
county was created in 1851 and attached to Chickasaw for judicial
and election proposes.
In October, 1852, James B. Reeves, John Mayne and Addison Phelps
made claims near a creek in the eastern part of the county where
they found a fine body of timber. The grove and creek were named
for Mr. Mayne. The following year Dr. Aldrich took a claim and
built a cabin near where Ackley stands. He sold the claim to Thomas
Downs who was frozen to death in 1855 by a fierce blizzard which
overtook him while crossing an unsettled prairie. During the summer
and fall of 1852 several families made claims along Mayne Creek. In
1853 B. F. White settled near the Iowa River in the western part of
the county. In 1854 a report reached the scattered settlers that a
band of three hundred hostile Indians was approaching and the
families fled for protection to Beaver Grove in Butler County. Upon
their return their property was found unmolested. The first school
in the county was taught by Mrs. H. J. Mitchell in 1854 in a log
cabin at Maynes Grove.
At the August election in 1855 the county was organized by the
choice of the following officers: James B. Reeves, judge; S. R.
Mitchell, clerk; Isaac Miller, treasurer; and Soloman Staley,
sheriff. The first county seat was located by the Commissioners
about two miles north of Hampton. On the 7th of April, 1856, the
citizens at an election voted to move it to the new town of Benjamin
which had been laid out in June, 1856. The name was soon after
changed to Hampton which became the permanent county-seat. The
first settler in the new town was James Thompson who moved from
Vinton early in 1856. Job Gardner and George Ryan donated to the
county the undivided half of eighty acres of land upon which Hampton
was located in order to secure the county-seat. The first newspaper
was the Franklin Record which was established by Stephen M.
Jones and M. S. Bowman at Hampton in 1859. The Illinois Central
Railroad touches the county on the south while the Iowa Central runs
through from south to north.
FREMONT COUNTY lies in the extreme southwest corner of the
State and is bounded on the south by Missouri and on the west by the
Missouri River. It contains an area of five hundred nine square
miles. The county was created in 1847 and named for Colonel John C.
Fremont, a famous explorer of the Rocky Mountain region and an
officer in the Mexican War.
The first settlements were made within its limits as early as
1840 when the southern townships were claimed by Missouri. James
Cornelius, Daniel McKissick, Thomas Farmer, David M. English and
others settled in that part of the county at McKissick's Grove prior
to 1842. A. M. Hitchock was one of the early settlers near Sidney
where he kept a public house. Major Stephen Cooper was one of the
pioneers in the vicinity of Bartlett and at one time a member of the
Missouri Legislature. In 1848 several families from Oberlin, Ohio,
settled on the east bank of the Missouri River five miles above
Nebraska City with the intention of founding a college; but the
floods overflowed their lands and they moved to where Tabor now
stands. Rev. John Todd was one of the founders of the college which
was there established in 1857.
The county was organized in 1850 by the election of the following
officers: Thomas Greenwood, judge; A. H. Argyle, treasurer and
recorder; J. S. Jones, prosecuting attorney; Milton Richards, clerk
of court; and Tilden M. Buckham, sheriff. Among the earliest
settlers in the southern part of the county were John Gordon, James
Applegate and Dr. David Lincoln. The first term of the District
Court was held in 1850 by Judge William McKay in a log cabin at
McKissick's Grove where a town had been platted, named Austin. The
town of Sidney was laid out in 1851 on land belonging to Judge
Thomas Greenwood. J. J. Singleton opened a store the same year and
S. T. Crowell built and kept the first public house. Hamburg was
laid out in 1857 by Augustus Borcher, a young German, who had
settled there to trade with the Indians. He named it for his native
city in the old country. In May, 1851, the county-seat was located
at Sidney and in 1863 the Sidney Union, a weekly newspaper,
was started there by L. J. Easton. The Kansas City and Council
Bluffs Railroad was built through the county from north to south in
GREENE COUNTY was created in 1851 from territory at one
time belonging to Benton. It lies in the fifth tier south of
Minnesota and in the fourth east of the Missouri River and contains
sixteen townships making an area of five hundred seventy-six square
miles. The county was named for General Nathaniel Greene of the
American Revolution and was first attached to Polk. The North
Raccoon River flows through it in a southeasterly direction with
heavy timber along its banks.
Truman Davis was the first settler in the county; taking a claim
in 1849 near where Rippey stands. Enos Buttrick located near the
mouth of Buttrick's Creek and Richard Hardin, at Hardin's Creek, the
same year. In 1850-51 R. W. Babb, William Crumley, Josiah Bluncett,
Thomas Greenup, John Barr and others settled along the Raccoon
The county was organized in 1854 by the election of the following
officers: William Phillips, judge; S. G. Crumley, clerk; James H.
Phillips, recorder and treasurer; Isaac D. Crumley, sheriff, and N.
S. Daniels, prosecuting attorney.
The town of Jefferson was laid out on the banks of the Raccoon
River in 1854 and named for the author of the Declaration of
Independence. It was made the county-seat and the first house was
built by G. S. Walton in June, 1855. The first term of court was
held by Judge C. J. McFarland in May, 1856. It was ten years before
a newspaper was started. In 1866 M. L. and H. Money established the
Jefferson Bee. The Chicago Northwestern Railroad was built
through the county from east to west in 1868. The town of Grand
Junction was laid out at the point where the Des Moines Valley
Railroad crosses the line of the Northwestern.
GRIMES COUNTY was created by act of the Sixteenth General
Assembly in 1876, embracing twelve townships lying in ranges
thirty-eight, thirty-nine and forty in Pottawattamie County. The
act provided in compliance with a provision of the Constitution,
that the proposition should be submitted to a vote of the electors
in Pottawattamie County at the general election of 1876. The
division of the county was defeated at that election and the new
county was never organized. It was named for Ex-Governor James W.
Grimes, for many years a distinguished member of the United States
GRUNDY COUNTY lies in the fourth tier south of the
Minnesota line in the fifth west of the Mississippi River and
contains five hundred four square miles. It was created in 1851
from territory formerly belonging to Benton and Buchanan counties
and was named for Felix Grundy, a prominent citizen of Tennessee.
The county contains no large streams and but little native timber
but consists of a vast stretch of prairie of great fertility.
On the 4th of October, 1853, William D. Peck made a claim in the
northeastern part of the county, now Franklin township. About two
weeks later John Freel took a claim on Black Hawk Creek in the
southeastern part of the county and built a log cabin. Thomas G.
Hoxie made the first settlement in the vicinity of Grundy Center in
1855. C. F. Clarkson was the pioneer settler in the western part of
the county where he built a house and established his family in May,
The county was organized in 1856 by the election of the following
officers: A. W. Lawrence, judge; Thomas G. Copp, treasurer; T. G.
Hoxie, sheriff; Elias Marble, clerk, and C. F. Clarkson, prosecuting
attorney. The county-seat was located at Grundy Center in 1856 and
the first term of the District Court was held in 1857 in a log house
at which Judge J. D. Thompson presided. In 1861 a weekly newspaper
was established by W. H. Hartman and J. M. Chaffee, named The
Pioneer. The Burlington and Cedar Rapids Railroad runs in a
northwesterly direction through the county and Grundy Center.
GUTHRIE COUNTY was at one time a part of the original
county of Keokuk and was created in 1851. It contains sixteen
townships embracing an area of five hundred ninety-three square
miles, and lies in the fourth tier east of the Missouri River and in
the fourth north of the State of Missouri. The county was named in
memory of Edwin Guthrie who was captain of the only company Iowa
furnished for the Mexican War. He was mortally wounded in battle
and his name was given to this county through the influence of his
friend Theophilus Bryan.
In 1848 John Nevins made a claim and built a log cabin in what is
now Jackson township. Other settlers came during the next two years
and in July, 1851, Theophilus Bryan was appointed sheriff to
organize the county government. At the first election the following
officers were chosen: Theophilus Bryan, judge; Silas G. Weeks,
clerk; Thomas M. Boyles, treasurer; Michael Messenger, sheriff, and
William Carson, prosecuting attorney. The county-seat was named
When first created the eastern boundaries of the county were six
miles east of the present lines. The first term of court was held
by Judge McFarland in 1854. In December, 1855, William Tracy
established a weekly newspaper at Panora called the Western
Pioneer. During the same year a town was laid out near the
geographical center of the county and named Guthrie Center. In 1859
it became the county-seat which was two years later removed to
Panora but in 1873 again removed to Guthrie Center where it has
remained. The county is traversed by the south and middle branches
of the Raccoon River and its surface is for the most part rolling
with a good supply of native timber. The Rock Island Railroad
traverses the southern part of the county, the Des Moines Northern
the eastern and the Milwaukee the northern townships.
HAMILTON COUNTY lies in the fourth tier =south of
Minnesota and in the sixth east of the Missouri River. When first
created in 1851 the county was named Risley. The Fourth General
Assembly changed the name to Webster. At the same session Webster
County was enlarged by consolidating it with Yell county which
joined it on the west. In 1857 Hamilton County was created by
taking from Webster the territory on the east formerly embraced in
Risley. It was named for W. W. Hamilton, then president of the
State Senate. The new county of Hamilton contained sixteen
congressional townships making an area of five hundred seventy-six
square miles. Webster City was made the county-seat.
Wilson Brewer and Nathan and William Stanley were the first
settlers within the limits of the county; they made claims on the
Boone River in November, 1850, where Brewer and William Frake laid
out a town which they named Newcastle. In 1851 Peter Lyon, Isaac
Hook, S. Bell and Jacob Crooks settled along the Boone River. The
first school was taught by John Hancock in a log cabin three miles
north of Newcastle in the winter of 1854.
The first store in the county was opened by Isaac Hook in 1852
near the Des Moines River, at a place called Hook's Point. The
first physician was Dr. H. Corbin who located at Homer which was the
county-seat of Webster when it embraced the present counties of
Hamilton, Webster and a part of Humboldt and was at that time one of
the best and most promising towns in northern Iowa. The division of
the county, however, ruined its prospects. The county-seat was lost
and for many years it was a deserted village fast going to decay.
In 1856 Brewer and Frake sold their interest in Newcastle to Walter
C. and Sumler Wilson who changed the name to Webster City.
In 1857 the county was organized by the election of the following
officers: John D. Maxwell, judge; Cyrus Smith, treasurer; Charles
Leonard, sheriff. The first newspaper was established in June,
1857, by Charles Aldrich and named the Hamilton Freeman. The
Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad was built through the county from
east to west on the line of Webster City.
HANCOCK COUNTY was created in 1851 from territory formerly
embraced in Fayette and was attached to Boone in 1853. It lies in
the second tier south of Minnesota in the sixth west of the
Mississippi River and was named for John Hancock, President of the
Continental Congress. Several tributaries of the Iowa River take
their rise in the county and the east fork flows through the east
side. A number of small lakes are found in various sections, among
which are Twin Lakes, Crystal Lake and Eagle Lake.
On the 9th of September, 1854 Anson Avery made a claim at Upper
Grove and in October, George Nelson located near him. The following
year Reuben and Orick Church, Thomas and Malcom Magill and Benoni
Haskins joined the settlement. In September, 1855, John Mabin and
Jacob Ward settled in a grove on Lime Creek near Ellington. The
first settlers at Crystal Lake were Edwin Trumbull and Myron Booth
who arrived in 1865.
The county contains sixteen townships, making an area of five
hundred seventy-six square miles, and was organized in June, 1858,
by the election of the following officers: R. P. Rosecrans, judge;
George Loupee, clerk; Reuben Church, treasurer,, and Benoni Haskins,
sheriff. On the 4th of November, 1865, John I. Popejoy and James
Goodwin were appointed commissioners to select a site for the
county-seat. They located it where Concord now stands. A tract of
land was donated to the county by Thomas Seymour and in May, 1867,
was platted and named Concord. Previous to the selection of Concord
the county business had been transacted at Ellington, where in 1860
W. E. Tucker and Mr. Tobin had established a newspaper named the
Hancock Sentinel. A brick courthouse was built at Concord in
1868. The Milwaukee Railroad was built through the county in
1869-70, running a mile north of Concord, where in July, 1870, John
Mabin laid out a town named Graner. Britt is a flourishing town on
this road near the middle of the county, In the southeast part of
the county the town of Goodell is located on the line of the Cedar
HARDIN COUNTY lies in the fourth tier south of Minnesota
and midway between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It is
twenty-four miles square and contains an area of five hundred
seventy-six square miles. The county was created in 1851 and named
for Colonel John J. Hardin of Illinois who was killed in the Mexican
War. The Iowa River flows through the county from the northwest in
a southeasterly direction furnishing water power and along its banks
are found borders of woods and excellent stone quarries.
The first settlement was made by Greengury Haggins who came with
his family from Keokuk County in 1849 and made a claim on the Iowa
River and in the southeast corner of the county. During the next
season Samuel Smith, James A. Dawdey, William Robinson and Abraham
Grimsley came with their families and settled in the same vicinity.
In the fall of 1850 Jacob Kidwiler made a claim about ten miles
above Eldora. The next settlement was made in the vicinity of Iowa
Falls by B. I. Talbott and family. In 1851 several families of
Quakers settled on Honey Creek in the southern part of the county.
During the same year Isaac S. Moore, James Miller, Thomas Benedict
and others settled on the north fork of the Iowa River where they
laid out a town called Point Pleasant. In January, 1853, Jonathan
and Samuel Edgington settled near Eldora. The county entered the
land where Eldora was located in June, 1853, for the county-seat.
In 1853 the Edgington Brothers opened a store on the new town site.
During the same year mills were built at Hardin City and Iowa
The county was organized in February, 1853, by the election of
the following officers: Alexander Smith, judge; James D. Putnam,
clerk; Samuel Smith, recorder and treasurer; Thomas Bennett,
sheriff, and William Shafer, school fund commissioner.
The first term of District Court was held at Eldora in November,
1854, by Judge C. J. McFarland. In October, 1855, the town of Iowa
Falls was laid out in the northern part of the county by J. L. Estis,
Homer Stevens and others who emigrated from Kane County, Illinois.
The first building in the new town was erected by M. C. Woodruff
and J. F. Brown the same year. O. M. Holcomb established the first
newspaper at Eldora in 1856, the Hardin County Sentinel, with
J. D. Thompson as editor. A town was laid out in the northeast
corner of the county by J. W. Ackley in 1857 to which he gave his
own name. No houses were built until the advent of the Dubuque and
Sioux City Railroad in 1865 when Ackley began to make a rapid
growth. Steamboat Rock was laid out in 1855 on the Iowa River five
miles above Eldora. The Central Railroad of Iowa runs through the
county from north to south.
HARRISON COUNTY was created in 1851, lying on the Missouri
River in the fourth tier north of the Missouri State line. It
contains an area of six hundred ninety-five miles and was name for
General William H. Harrison, ninth President of the United States.
The valley of the Missouri River on its western border spreads out
in level bottom land to the width of from four to ten miles and is
of unsurpassed fertility. The Boyer River runs through the county
in a southwesterly direction and the Little Sioux crosses its
northwest corner. On the 3d of April, 1848, Daniel Brown took a
claim on Willow Creek in a grove near where the village of Calhoun
stands. He was robbed by the Indians who plundered his cabin and
drove away his horses and cattle. Among the earliest settlers were
Silas Condit, two brothers named Chase, James Hardy, Charles Lepenta,
Dr. Robert McGovern, Andrew Allen and Jacob Pattee. For several
years the early settlers were annoyed by wandering bands of Indians
who came through that region on hunting expeditions.
The county was organized in 1853 by the election of the following
officers: Stephen King, judge; P. G. Cooper, treasurer; Chester
Hamilton, sheriff; William Cooper, clerk, and John Thomson, school
fund commissioner. In March, 1853, the county-seat was located by
commissioners near the geographical center of the county where a
town was laid out and named Magnolia. The first term court was held
in May, 1855, by Judge S. H. Riddle in a log house. A newspaper was
established in 1858 by Isaac Parish at the town of Calhoun, named
the Harrison County Flag; it was the first in the county.
The Northwestern Railroad was constructed through the county
following down the Boyer valley and in a southwesterly direction
reaching Council Bluffs in 1868. Dunlap and Logan are towns on this
line of road which were laid out in 1867. Missouri Valley is at the
junction of the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad with the
Northwestern and was laid out in 1867. Many of the earliest
settlers in the county were Mormons who crossed the State in 1846-7
and remained when their brethren continued their journey from
Kanesville to Salt Lake.
HENRY COUNTY as first established in December, 1836, from
the original county of Demoine, embraced portions of the present
counties of Lee, Des Moines, Van Buren, Jefferson and Washington.
On the 21st of January, 1839, it was established with present
boundaries. It lies in the second tier west of the Mississippi
River and also in the second north of the Missouri State line,
contains an area of four hundred thirty-three square miles and was
named for Governor Henry Dodge of Wisconsin Territory. The Skunk
River runs through the county in southwesterly direction.
In the spring of 1834 James Dawson made a claim west of Mt.
Pleasant. In the fall of the same year Presley Saunders of
Springfield, Illinois, made a claim where Mr. Pleasant is located
and the following year made the first plat of the town. In 1837 the
Legislature of Wisconsin Territory located the county-sear at Mt.
Pleasant. A postoffice had been opened the year previous. Among
the earliest settlers were Joseph Moore, A. C. Dover, John Wilford,
Aaron Street, Jesse Hancock, Rev. W. M. Mortow, Rev. Samuel Hutton
and Presley Saunders.
The county was organized in 1837 when the following officers were
elected: Robert C. Roberts, treasurer; W. D. Brown, sheriff, and
Robert Caulk, Samuel Brazelton and George J. Sharp, commissioners.
The first term of court was held in a log cabin at Mt. Pleasant in
April, 1837, at which Judge David Irwin presided. The first house
in Mt. Pleasant was built in the fall of 1835 by Joseph Moore who
opened a store in it. William Thompson was the first mayor of Mt.
Pleasant. In 1849 D. M. Kelsey established the first newspaper
called the Iowa Freeman. In and about the town of Salem a large
number of families of Quakers settled at an early day. The first
insane asylum of the State was located at Mt. Pleasant. The main
line of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad runs through the county
from east to west.
HOWARD COUNTY lies in the third tier west of the
Mississippi River and its northern boundary is the Minnesota line.
It was originally a part of Fayette and as first established in
1851 contained but twelve townships. In 1855, however, the north
half of townships ninety-seven, ranges eleven to fourteen were
detached from Chickasaw and added to Howard, giving it an area of
four hundred seventy-six square miles. The county was named for
General T. A. Howard of Indiana.
The first white man who built a cabin within the limits of this
county was Hiram Johnson who in December, 1851, settled at Oregon
Grove on the Turkey River. In 1854 several families came to Oregon
Grove among whom were S. M. Cole, H. S. Shuttle worth, George
Scofield, Thomas Lewis and C. M. Munson. This grove is about two
miles south of the town of Cresco. Soon after the beginning of this
settlement several families located near Cresco. Among them were C.
S. Thurber, M. L. Shook, James Siddall, M. G. Goss and others. In
1855 other families settled on the Little Wapsipinicon.
The county was organized in 1855, electing the following
officers: James G. Upton, judge; Edmund Gillette, clerk; William
Woodward, recorder and treasurer; John Harlow, sheriff, and M. V.
Burdick, prosecuting attorney. Vernon Springs was the first
county-seat and there the first mill was built on the Turkey River
by George Sprague in 1853. Mr. Miller opened the first store the
following year. Harriet Cole taught the first school in a log cabin
at Oregon Grove in 1854. The land upon which Cresco stands was
entered in 1853 by one Mr. Barber who built a log cabin in the woods
which was purchased by Martin L. Shook in 1854 and was known as
Shook's Grove. In 1866 it was owned by Augustus Beadle, W. M.
Strong and B. H. Edgarton who laid out the town of Cresco. Judge
Samuel Murdock held the first court in the county at Howard Center
In February, 1858, a weekly newspaper was established at New
Oregon named the Howard County Sentinel with J. H. Field as
editor. The Milwaukee Railroad runs through the northwest part of
the county passing through the towns of Cresco and Lime Springs.
HUMBOLDT COUNTY, as first created in 1851, embraced
sixteen townships, including the four northern townships of Webster.
In 1855 the General Assembly apportioned the territory constituting
Humboldt, equally between Kossuth and Webster, and on the 1st of
July following, Humboldt County became extinct. On the 26th of
February, 1857, the county was again established with its original
boundaries. Through some unexplained manipulation of the bill for
the restoration of the county it was discovered, that, after this
passage and before it reached the Governor for his approval, the
south tier of townships had been erased from the act. The next
Legislature attempted to correct the error but in the meantime the
new Constitution had been adopted which provided that county
boundaries could not be changed without the consent of a majority of
the electors of each county affected. The legality of the act for
the correction of the error was attacked in the courts and at the
December term of the Supreme Court in 1860 it was decided that the
act for correction was in conflict with the Constitution and void.
This left Humboldt County with but twelve townships.
The county lies in the second tier south of the Minnesota line,
in the fifth east of the Missouri River and contains four hundred
thirty-two square miles. It was named for Baron Alexander von
Humboldt the German scientist. The east and west forks of the Des
Moines River flow through the county from the north and unite near
its southern boundary and the Boone River crosses its northeast
corner, all affording excellent water power.
The first white man to build a cabin within the limits of the
county was the desperado Henry Lott, who in 1852, located on the
stream which has been named Lott's Creek. The first permanent
settlers were Edward McKnight, Charles Bergk, Soloman Hand, Newton
Dowling and E. Hackman who settled on the east fork of the Des
Moines River about three miles above the junction of the two
branches, in the year 1854. The following year they were joined by
J. C. Cusey, George W. and Fletcher Hand, Eber Stone and William
Miller with their families. Dakota City was laid out by Edward
McKnight in 1856 and in 1857 was made the county-seat. A mill was
built on the river by Bergk and McKnight and a post-office
established with Charles Bergk as postmaster. The Methodists
organized a society in 1856.
The county government was established in 1857. The following
were the first officers chosen at the August election in 1857:
Jonathan Hutchison, judge; J. F. Williams, clerk; Alexander McLane,
treasurer; D. H. Nivers, sheriff, and J. S. Ellis, prosecuting
attorney. In August, 1860, A. S. White and Charles Bergk issued the
first number of a newspaper named the Humboldt County Independent.
In 1863 Rev. S. H. Taft arrived with a colony of some forty persons
from central New York, who settled upon ten sections of land lying
along the west fork of the Des Moines River west of Dakota City.
Here they laid out a town named Springdale, built a dam across the
river, erecting a sawmill and a flouring-mill. Mr. Taft also
founded Humboldt College which was established in a large stone
building erected for that purpose. The town made a rapid growth and
in time the name was changed to Humboldt. The Northwestern and the
Minneapolis railroads run through the county.