MADISON COUNTY which was at one time
a part of the original county of Demoine, was established in
January, 1846, lies in the third tier north of the Missouri line and
in the fourth east of the Missouri River and was named for James
Madison, fourth President of the United States. It is traversed by
the North, Middle and South rivers long which are borders of native
The first settler in the county was Hiram Hurst who came from
Missouri in May, 1845, and took a claim in Crawford township. In
May, 1846, Joel, Isaac and Charles Clanton and Caleb Clark with
their families settled along Clanton's Creek. About the same time
Samuel Guye and family located on the divide between Middle and
North rivers. Crosby B. Jones and Seth Adams took claims near
Middle River. Alfred D. Jones opened the first store at a place
called the "Narrows" about four miles east of where Winterset
stands. The first post-office was established at this place with
Mr. Jones postmaster.
In July, 1849, the commissioners chosen for that purpose selected
a site for the county-seat on a farm owned by John Guiberson who
sold it to the county. The day was cold for midsummer when the
commissioners assembled at the house of Enos Berger to agree upon a
name for the new town. One of them suggested "Summerset." William
Combes who had been fortifying himself with "sod corn juice" against
the cold, exclaimed "We had a site better call it Winterset"; his
colleagues at once agreed and that became the name of the new county
The first county officers were chosen in April, 1849, consisting
of G. W. McClellan, clerk; P. M. Boyles, recorder; Joseph K. Evans,
treasurer; A. D. Jones, prosecuting attorney, and William Combes,
David Bishop and William Gentry, county commissioners. The
commissioners caused a double log house to be erected for the use of
the county officials and courts. Judge William McKay held the first
court in May, 1849, in a cabin used for a store and saloon. Enos
Barger built the first house in Winterset and became the first
postmaster. He also built a log house for a hotel in 1849 which was
the largest building in the town. John A. Pitzer the following year
built the first frame house in the county. In 1856 James Ilor
brought an old printing press and type in a wagon from Sandusky,
Ohio, and began the publication of a weekly newspaper called the
Iowa Patriot which afterwards became the Winterset Madisonian.
The Rock Island Railroad runs through the northern part of the
county with a branch to Winterset.
MAHASKA COUNTY was embraced in the original county of
Demoine and was created in February, 1843. It lies in the fourth
tier west of the Mississippi River in the third north of the
Missouri State line and is twenty-four miles square containing five
hundred seventy-six square miles. It was named for the noted chief
of the Iowa Indians, Mahaska, which signifies "White Cloud." The
county is watered by the Des Moines, the North, South and Skunk
rivers and their tributaries, contains extensive deposits of coal
and is well supplied with native timber.
The first white settler in the county was Mr. Macbeth who, in
October, 1842, selected a claim one mile above the "Hardfish" Indian
village which then occupied the site of Eddyville. The cabin was
occupied some years by John B. Gray and family. The county was not
opened to white settlers until May 1, 1843, but scores of families
were camped near the line in April, and, when the last night of the
month came, rushed across the border to make a choice of claims.
Among those who made homes in the southern part of the county at
this time were Dr. E. A. Boyer, W. A. Delashmutt, John B. Gray, A.
S. Nichols, and many others. For months settlers flocked into the
county selecting homes mostly in the groves and along the timber
belts which bordered the streams.
In February, 1844, M. T. Williams was appointed clerk and William
Edmundson sheriff to organize the county. At an election held in
April the following county officers were chosen: A. S. Nichols,
William Stanley and Robert Curry, commissioners; William D.
Canfield, treasurer; William Edmundson, sheriff; William Pilgrim,
recorder, and John Cunningham, clerk. Commissioners chosen to
locate the county-seat made choice of a farm belonging to W. D.
Canfield at a place called the "Narrows" and gave it the name of
"Mahaska." The county purchased the farm upon which the town was
platted by David Stump, the county surveyor. At the suggestion of
M. T. Williams the commissioners changed the name of the new
county-seat to Oskaloosa.
In June, 1843, a town had been laid out by William James on "Six
Mile Prairie" which he named Harrisburg. George W. Jones afterwards
purchased the ground and changed the name to Auburn. John W. Jones,
his brother, who became State Treasurer, lived in the town and owned
an interest in the plat. A strong effort was made by the
proprietors to secure the county-seat.
The first mill in the county was built on Muchekinock Creek by
Joseph H. and John K. Bennett in 1843. Miss Semira Hobbs taught the
first school in 1844; and a church was organized the same year by
the Methodists at Six Mile Prairie. The Oskaloosa Herald was
established in July, 1850, by W. H. Needham and Hugh McNeeley. The
Des Moines Valley Railroad was the first built into the county.
MARION COUNTY was created in June, 1845, from territory
embraced in the original county of Demoine. It lies in the fifth
tier west of the Mississippi River an din the third north of
Missouri, is twenty-four miles square and contains five hundred
seventy-six square miles. The county was named for General Francis
Marion of the Revolutionary War. The Des Moines River and its
tributaries flow through the county in a southeasterly direction;
the water courses are usually bordered with forests and the county
has large deposits of coal.
The first white settlers were Indian traders who, as early as
1841, established trading posts at several points. William Phelps
was the first who opened a trading house near the eastern border.
John Jordon, Gaddis, Nye, Turner and Shaw established posts near
Red Rock. The county was opened to white settlers May 1, 1843, when
a large number secured claims upon which they made homes. During
the year settlements were made at Red Rock, White Breast,
Bluffington and other localities, making a population of more than
In the spring of 1845 the citizens held a meeting at the house of
Nathan Bass on Lake Prairie and took the first steps toward
organizing a county government. Commissioners were chosen, located
the county-seat in August and gave it the name of Knoxville in honor
of General Knox of the Revolutionary War. An election was held at
which the following county officers were chosen: Conrad Walter,
William Welch and David Durham, commissioners; Sanford Dowd, clerk;
F. A. Barker, probate judge; James M. Walters, sheriff; David T.
Durham, treasurer, and Robert S. Lowrey, recorder.
Judge Williams held the first court at the new county-seat in
March, 1846. The first settlers in Knoxville were Luther C. Conrey,
Lysander W. B. Abbitt, George Gillaspy and Lewis Pierce. Mr. Conrey
built the first house.
In 1847 a colony of Hollanders under the leadership of Henry P.
Scholte located at lake Prairie where they purchased 13,000 acres of
land upon which they built sod houses thatched with slough grass.
In the spring of 1848 Mr. Scholte and others laid out a town which
they named Pella, the "city of refuge." In February, 1855, H. P.
Scholte and Edwin H. Grant issued the first number of a weekly
newspaper called the Pella Gazette which was the first
journal established in the county. In 1853 the preliminary steps
were taken to organize a college at Pella which was named the
Central University of Iowa.
In October, 1855, William M. Stone, afterwards Governor of the
State, established the Knoxville Journal at the county-seat.
The Des Moines Valley Railroad was the first built into the county.
MARSHALL COUNTY was created in January, 1846, by a
division of the original county of Benton. It lies in the sixth
tier west of the Mississippi River, in the fifth south of the
Minnesota line and was named for Chief Justice John Marshall of the
United States Supreme Court. The Iowa River flows through it in a
southeasterly direction which, with numerous tributaries, waters a
large portion of the county. It contains sixteen congressional
townships making an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles.
Excellent building stone is abundant and the county contains more
than 30,000 acres of native forest.
Joseph and William Davison were the first white settlers in the
county. In 1847 they took claims in what is now Le Grand township.
The following year Joseph M. Ferguson, Josiah Cooper and others
settled near Timber Creek and a large number of families made homes
in other parts.
In 1849 the county government was organized by the election of
the following officers: David E. Cooper, clerk; J. M. Ferguson,
sheriff; J. Hobbs, probate judge; Zeno B. Freeman, treasurer; Jesse
Amos, Joseph Cooper and James Miller, county commissioners. The
first court was held by Judge William McKay in the fall of 1851 in a
log cabin belonging to John Ralls which stood in the grove north of
where Marshalltown was built. It 1851 the county-seat was located
at Marietta where a town was laid out. William Dishon was the first
postmaster, keeping the office in his store. Doctors Whealen and
Nixon were the first physicians in the town and county.
In the summer of 1853 Henry Anson and John Childs laid out a town
on a claim made by Anson two years before, where he had built a log
cabin. It was named Marshall for a town of that name in Michigan.
But upon learning of one in Henry County bearing the same name, the
proprietors changed it to Marshalltown. A fierce contest at once
began to secure the removal of the county-seat from Marietta to
Marshalltown which continued for several years until in December,
1859, a decision of the Supreme court settled the contest in favor
of Marshalltown. The first newspaper in the county was established
by T. J. Wilson in 1855 at La Fayette, now Albion, named the Iowa
Central Journal. The paper was moved to Marshalltown in 1857 by
E. N. Chapin and R. N. Barnhard who changed the name to the
Marshall County Times. Wells Rice was the first postmaster when
the office was established at Marshalltown in 1854. G. M. Woodbury
was for many years one of the most enterprising citizens in securing
railroads and promoting manufacturing in the growing city. In 1863
the Iowa and Nebraska Railroad was built through the county from
east to west, passing through Marshalltown.
MILLS COUNTY was created in 1851 and named for Major
Frederick Mills, a gallant young Iowa officer who was killed at the
Battle of Cherubusco in the Mexican War. Its western boundary is
the Missouri River and it lies in the second tier north of the
Missouri State line. The county is twenty-four miles in length from
east to west and eighteen miles in width, containing four hundred
forty-four square miles. The western portion of the county consists
of level bottom land of the Missouri River valley, in places
reaching a width of from three to seven miles, east of which rise
the high bluffs which in remote ages formed the shore of the river.
The first white settler was Colonel Peter A. Sarpy who as early
as 1836 established a trading house and was an agent of the American
Fur Company. He laid out a town near the mouth of Mosquito Creek
and named it St. Mary. For many years it was a thriving village but
the Missouri River encroached upon it gradually undermining the
buildings until most of them disappeared beneath the floods and the
town was abandoned. Henry Alice, who came as a missionary to the
Pawnee Indians in 1834, made his home near St. Mary. In 1846 thirty
Mormons, who were among those driven out of Nauvook stopped in Mills
County on the east side of Key Creek near the Missouri and built
cabins to shelter them through the approaching winter. They formed
a village to which they gave the name of Rushville. Among them was
William Brittain who became a permanent resident of the county. In
1847-8 Silas Hillman, Libeons Coon, Ira Hillman, G. N. Clark, J.
Everett and others settled near the present site of Glenwood. In
1849 Mr. Coon laid out a town on his farm which he named Coonville.
In 1851 the county government was organized by the election of
the following officers: William Smith, judge; W. W. Noyes, clerk
and James Hardy, sheriff. The county-seat was located at Coonville
where the first term of court was held in 1851, at which Judge James
Sloan, a Mormon, presided. In 1849 the first flouring-mill in the
county was built by J. W. Collidge. Here D. H. Coloman, a young
lawyer taught the first school in a log cabin ten feet by twelve in
size. Mr. Soloman became a prominent lawyer and was one of the
framers of the Constitution of the State in 1857.
In 1853 the name of the county-seat was changed from Coonville to
Glenwood. Soon after the close of the War of the Rebellion one of
the Soldiers' Orphans' Homes was located at Glenwood and later the
Institution for the Feeble Minded was built there. The first
newspaper in the county was the Glenwood Times, established
in May, 1856, by J. M. Dews. The largest apple orchard in the State
was planted in Mills County by John Y. Stone. The soil of this
region seems to be peculiarly adapted to fruit growing. Malvern is
a thriving town near the center of the county. The Burlington
Railroad was the first built in the county.
MITCHELL COUNTY, originally a part of Fayette, was created
in 1851 and named for the Irish patriot John Mitchell. Its northern
boundary is the Minnesota line and it is in the fourth tier west of
the Mississippi River. The county embraces an area of four hundred
seventy-three square miles. The Red Cedar, the Little Cedar and the
Wapsipinicon rivers flow southward through the county. James B.
Cutler and William Ramsdell were the first settlers in 1852; they
took claims and built cabins about a mile north of where Osage
stands. L. S. Hart and his son Orin entered land and settled at
Spring Grove the same year. In June, 1853, a colony of Norwegians
under the leadership of C. L. Clanson came from Wisconsin and
settled near where St. Ansger stands on the Red Cedar River. In
September of the same year Josiah Cummings and his son William E.
located at Mitchell.
The county government was organized in 1854 by the election of
the following officers: A. H. Moore, judge; Amos Cummings, clerk;
B. C. Whitaker, treasurer and recorder, and L. S. Hart, sheriff.
In 1853 a town was laid out on the Cedar River by Dr. A. H. Moore
and B. C. Whitaker which was named Cora. In 1854 the property was
sold to Boardman, Downs and Gibbs, who changed the name of the town
to Osage, in honor of Orin Sage of Massachusetts.
In 1855 the county-seat was located at Mitchell where a town had
been platted on the east bank of the Cedar River. A bitter contest
soon arose between the citizens of Osage and Mitchell for the
permanent county-seat. Several elections were held with varying
results until April, 1861, when Osage was declared the county-seat
by a majority of nineteen votes. By injunction proceedings Mitchell
held the county records until the fall of 1871 when the courts
settled the contest in favor of Osage. In July, 1856, the United
States Land Office was moved from Decorah to Osage.
The first mill in the county was built at Newburg in 1854. The
first court was held by Judge Samuel Murdock at Mitchell in June,
1857. The Osage Democrat was the first newspaper in the
county; it was established in the spring of 1856 by Datus E. Coon of
Osage, who issued the first number under the shade of a tree. In
1857 the Methodists organized a church at Osage with Rev. Holbrook
as pastor. A. S. Faville taught the first school at Mitchell in
The first railroad constructed through the county was the Cedar
Falls and Minnesota which followed the valley of the Cedar River.
MONONA COUNTY lies on the Missouri River in the fifth tier
south of the Minnesota line. It is about thirty miles long from
east to west by twenty-four wide containing an area of six hundred
eighty-five square miles. The county was created in 1851 from
territory in the old county of Benton; the name is of Indian origin.
In 1865 the eastern tier of townships was detached and given to
Crawford County. The valley of the Missouri River spreads out to a
great width in this county containing more than 165,000 acres of
level bottom lands of unsurpassed fertility, the black soil varying
in depth from six to fifteen feet. The Little Sioux River runs in a
southwesterly direction through the county.
The first permanent settler was Isaac Ashton, who, in 1852, made
a claim about two miles north of Onawa, while Josiah Sumner located
near him. The same year Aaron Cook settled on the bank of the
Missouri River at a place which became known as Cook's Landing. In
1854, Charles B. Thompson, a Mormon leader, with several followers
settled on Soldier Creek. During the year he was joined by about
fifty Mormon families who preempted several thousand acres of the
best lands in that vicinity. Thompson laid out a town called
Preparation. A quarrel arose among the members of the colony;
litigation ensued and the members gradually disposed of their lands
and removed to other parts.
The county government was organized in 1854 by the election of
the following officers: Charles B. Thompson, county judge;
treasurer and recorder, Hugh Lytle; clerk, Andrew Hall; and J. F.
Lane, sheriff. The county business was transacted at the Mormon
town, Preparation. The commissioners chosen to locate the
county-seat selected Ashton in the fall of 1854. The same year Mr.
Thompson started two papers; one, a weekly called The Messenger,
and the other a monthly named Zion's Harbinger. The were
published at Preparation.
In 1857 the Mormon Land Company laid out the town of Onawa and
the first house was built by S. S. Pearse in July, while J. E.
Morrison the same season built a hotel called the Onawa House. C.
E. Whiting was one of the early settlers in the county who planted
large orchards and extensive groves of trees.
In 1858, by a vote of the people the county-seat was moved to
Onawa. The Sioux City and Pacific Railroad was the first built
through the county.
MONROE COUNTY lies in the second tier north of the
Missouri line and in the fifth west of the Mississippi River. It
has twelve congressional townships containing an area of four
hundred thirty-two square miles. The county was first named
Kishkekosh and organized under that name but changed to Monroe
August 1, 1846, in honor of the fifth President of the United
States. A history of its organization and early settlements will be
found in the sketch of Kishkekosh County. The name of the
county-seat, Princeton, was changed to Albia. In 1854 A. C. Barnes
established a newspaper at Albia in the interest of the "free soil"
movement which was called the Albia Independent Press. The
main line of the Burlington Railroad runs through the county from
east to west with a branch to Des Moines.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY lies in the second tier east of the
Missouri River and also in the second tier north of the Missouri
State line. It was created in 1851 and contains twelve
congressional townships with an area of four hundred thirty-two
square miles. The county was named in memory of General Richard
Montgomery an officer of the Revolutionary War who was killed in the
assault on Quebec in 1775. The Nodaway and Nishnabotna rivers flow
through the county in a southwesterly direction.
John Ross was the first white man to make a home in the county in
1849. Among the settlers previous to 1853 were Amos G. Lowe, S. C.
Dunn, John W. Patterson, John Stafford, Carl Means, John and James
Ross and Samuel Baker. The first settlements were made along the
Nodaway River in the eastern portion of the county.
In 1853 the county government was organized by the election of
the following officers: Anos G. Lowe, judge; S. C. Dunn, clerk;
John W. Patterson, treasurer, and R. W. Rogers, sheriff. The
commissioners chosen to locate the county-seat selected a tract of
land in the center of the county where a town was laid out and named
Frankfort, July, 1854. The first house was built by John Burnside.
Dr. Asa Bond and A. G, Lowe soon located there and the new town
made a rapid growth. Samuel Baker taught the first school in the
county in 1856. In 1857 Alfred Hebard, David Remick and Charles
Hendrie laid out the town of Red Oak on the banks of the Nishnabotna
River. The same year Joseph Zuber built the first house on the town
site. In 1863 by a vote of the people the county-seat was removed
from Frankfort to Red Oak. From that time Frankfort declined and
many of its buildings, including the court-house, were removed to
Red Oak. In March, 1868, Webster Eaton established a weekly
newspaper named the Montgomery County Express, the first in
the county. The main line of the Burlington Railroad runs through
the county from east to west.
MUSCATINE COUNTY was created from territory originally
embraced in Demoine County. In 1836, when the boundaries were first
established, it included a portion of the present counties of Scott,
Johnson and Washington. Soon after the creation of the counties of
Scott, Slaughter and Johnson, Muscatine was reduced to its present
limits. The name is derived from the Musquetine tribe of Indians
which at one time possessed the island in the Mississippi River and
the west shore. The county lies on the Mississippi River, includes
Muscatine Island and is in the fourth tier north of the Missouri
State line. It embraces an area of four hundred thirty-seven square
In the fall of 1833 Major George Davenport, who had a trading
post at Rock Island, sent Mr. Farnam down the river to where
Muscatine stands to establish a trading post. Farnam built a log
cabin in which he placed a stock of goods and opened trade with the
Indians. After two years the store was sold to John Vanata. In
May, 1834, Benjamin Nye settled at the mouth of Pine Creek. The
following year James Casey built a cabin just below the Davenport
trading house. Dr. Eli Reynolds soon after laid out a town three
miles farther up the river named Geneva. Other settlers located at
Moscow, on the Cedar River. In the spring of 1836 Colonel Vanata
occupied his claim and laid out a town which he named Bloomington.
A few months later J. W. Casey and others laid out a town lower
down the river which was named Newberry.
The county was organized in January, 1837. In 1837 a postoffice
was established at Bloomington and the following year was made the
county-seat. By this time about fifty houses had been built and the
population of Bloomington numbered about two hundred. Adam Ogilvie
opened the first store in 1837 and Edward E. Fay was the first
postmaster. The Iowa House was the first hotel, which was opened by
Robert C. Kenney in the spring of 1837. On the 18th of August of
that year the steamer Dubuque, Captain Smoker, exploded its
boiler seven miles above Bloomington where twenty-two lives were
lost. Seventeen of the dead were buried in one grave in the
cemetery at Bloomington. Suel Foster was one of the proprietors of
Bloomington, laying out additions. In 1849 the name of the town was
changed to Muscatine which signifies "little prairie."
The first school was taught by George Baumgardner at Bloomington
in the spring of 1837. The Methodists organized a church in the
village the same year with Rev. Norris as pastor. Judge David Irwin
held the first term of court at the house of Samuel Parker in April,
1837, of which John S. Abbott was clerk. When Lieutenant Zebulon M.
Pike explored the upper Mississippi River in 1805, he named the high
ground which rises from the river at Muscatine, "Grindstone Bluff."
The first court was held by Judge David Irwin at Bloomington in
April, 1837; the next year the county was organized by the election
of the following officers: sheriff, James Davis; clerk, J. G.
Monroe; treasurer and recorder, Lewis McKee; commissioners, John
Vanata, E. Thornton and Aaron Usher.
The first newspaper established in the county was the Iowa
Standard published by Crum and Bailey in 1840. Early in the
next year it was moved to Iowa City, the new Capital of the
Territory and the first number of the Bloomington Herald by
Hughes and Russell was immediately issued to take its place. The
Rock Island Railroad was the first line built through the county