TAMA COUNTY was created by act of the Legislature on the
17th of February, 1843, and attached to Linn for judicial, election
and revenue purposes. It lies in the fifth tier west of the
Mississippi River and in the middle of the State north and south.
The county contains twenty congressional townships, embracing an
area of seven hundred twenty square miles and was named for the Fox
Indian chief Taimah. The Iowa River and numerous tributaries flow
through it in a southeasterly direction, most of which are bordered
by native groves.
The first white settler in the county was H. N. Atkinson who, on
the 18th of May, 1848, entered a tract of land near the Iowa River
about three miles west of where Tama City stands. Isaac Asher and
family settled on Indian Creek in the fall of 1849. William,
Anthony and Robert Wilkinson, brothers, from Ohio, with their mother
and three sisters settled in Richland township in October, 1849.
Before the close of 1851 many families had located in other parts
of the county. Among the early settlers in the vicinity of Toledo
and Tama City were J. C. Vermilya, George Carter, R. A. Redman, Dr.
Wealey Daniel and Judge Graham.
An election was held at the house of R. A. Redman near the Iowa
River, on the first Monday of August, 1852, for the purpose of
organizing a county government. The first officers chosen were John
Vermilya, judge; John Ross, treasurer and recorder; D. D. Applegate,
clerk; and Myron Blodgett, sheriff. In 1853 J. M. Ferguson and R.
B. Ogden were chosen commissioners to locate the county-seat. They
met at the house of Judge Vermilya and after examining various
places proposed, selected the spot where Toledo stands and gave it
that name. The first newspaper in the county was issued at Toledo
in the spring of 1856 by M. V. B. Kienton and named the Toledo
Tama City was laid out in the summer of 1862 on the north side of
the Iowa River and on the line of the Northwestern Railroad. It was
first named Iuka but a few years later the name was changed to Tama
City. In 1874 a company built a dam across the Iowa River and
brought water by an aqueduct to the city making a valuable water
The Musquakie Indians have a reservation in the county where
several hundred of them live. Traer is a town in the northeast part
of the county on the line of the Burlington and Cedar Rapids
TAYLOR COUNTY was created in 1847 and first attached to
Pottawattamie. It lies on the Missouri State line in the third tier
east of the Missouri River and contains five hundred forty-eight
square miles. The surface is rolling and the principal streams are
bordered by woods. The Platte, East Nodaway and West One Hundred
and Two rivers and many smaller streams flow through the county in a
southwesterly direction. The name "One Hundred and Two" was given
to the river in early days by a party of surveyors who were running
a line for a military road from some point in Missouri. The place
where their line struck this branch of the Platte was one hundred
and two miles from the starting point.
The first white family known to have settled in the county was
that of Jonah Reed who took a claim near the Page County line in
1844. Stephen H. Parker took a claim in the county in 1846. In
1851 the population had reached three hundred ninety-three and
Elisha Parker was appointed to take steps to organize a county
government. At an election held in February the following officers
were chosen: Jacob Ross, Levi L. Hayden and Daniel Smith,
commissioners; John Hayden, clerk; H. Bennington, probate judge;
John Hayden, treasurer and recorder; and J. B. Campbell, sheriff.
Most of the early settlers lived in the southern part of the
county in the disputed territory, supposing they were in Missouri.
Although they owned no slaves, on account of their poverty, they
were strong advocates of the system. They lived in the rudest log
cabins and subsisted on pork, corn dodgers, whisky and coffee and
such small game as the country afforded.
The first term of court was held at the cabin of Jacob Ross by
Judge Sloan in September, 1851. The first attorney in the county
was Benjamin Rector who became a prominent lawyer. He raised a
company for the Fourth Iowa Cavalry in the War of the Rebellion, was
promoted to major, taken prisoner and died at Helena in January,
Commissioners were appointed to locate the county-seat in 1852
and selected a site on the west bank of East One Hundred and Two
River where, by order of the county judge, a town was laid out and
named Bedford. O. W. Tenno erected a double log cabin, the first in
the town plot, which was used for a store and dwelling for many
years. The first newspaper in the county was established in
February, 1858, by Joseph H. Turner at Bedford and named the Iowa
South West. The Burlington Railroad has a branch running from
Creston through Bedford and Taylor County. The county was named for
General Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States.
UNION COUNTY lies in the second tier north of Missouri, in
the fourth east of the Missouri River and contains four hundred
thirty-two square miles. It was created in 1851 and in the original
bill providing for its establishment the county was named Mason, for
judge Charles Mason. Just before the passage of the bill in the
Senate, upon motion of Mr. Morton, the name Mason was stricken out
and "Union" inserted. At that time, after years of better conflict
over the institution of slavery which threatened a dissolution of
the Union, a compromise had been effected which was believed by many
would permanently settle the dangerous controversy and insure the
perpetuity of the Union. Hence the name given to this new county.
Grand River, Twelve Mile and the Platte are the principal streams
traversing the county and their banks are covered with timber.
The county was entirely unsettled in 1846 when the Mormon
emigration began from Nauvoo westward through Iowa. At this time
many of the Musquaka Indians, under their chief, "Johnny Green,"
occupied hunting grounds along Grand River. A large body of Mormon
refugees moving westward were overtaken by severe winter storms in
Decatur and Union counties. Several hundred men, women and
children, unable to endure the hardships of winter travel through an
unsettled country, stopped in a grove on the Grand River bluff in
Union County and dug caves for shelter form the storms. Here they
also built log cabins and cared for the sick and feeble until
spring. They built a mill run by horse power and many remained
several years cultivating land and raising crops. This furnished a
refuge for others who could here recruit from the hardships of the
journey and replenish their exhausted provisions. The place was
named Mount Pisgah by the Mormons.
In 1850 many settlers came into the county and purchased the
improvements made by the Mormons. Among them were William L. Lock,
J. H. Stark, Joseph and Norman Nun and Benjamin Lamb. Henry Peters
bought the Mormon mill and laid out a town which he named
Petersville. A store, hotel and several small houses were built and
for a few years it was the business center for the people of the
county. In 1851 Amos C. Cooper and Isaac P. Lamb settled in the
southern part of the county in Pleasant township and the following
year William Grosbeck and Lewis Bragg located in the northeast
The county was organized in 1853 by the election of Norman Nun,
judge; John Edgecomb, sheriff, and I. P. Lamb, school fund
commissioner. The first term of court was held at Petersville in
the fall of 1853 at which Judge A. A. Bradford presided. The
commissioners located the county-seat near a beautiful grove on
Twelve Mile Creek, in February, 1855, and gave it the name of Afton
at the suggestion of Mrs. James Baker. The town of Highland, laid
out near the center of the county was a competitor for the
county-seat and losing it also lost its buildings which were moved
In 1869 the town of Creston was laid out on the line of the
Burlington Railroad. The principal division of this road in Iowa
and the machine shops were established at Creston and it eventually
became the county-seat. The first newspaper in the county was
established in the summer of 1859 by Morris and Ryan, named the
Afton Eagle. It was Democratic in politics but after the
election of Lincoln in 1860 it was purchased by L. Raguet and became
VAN BUREN COUNTY was created in December, 1836, and named
for Martin Van Buren who had been elected President of the United
States. It then included a portion of the present county of Davis.
In 1838 enough territory was taken from Henry and the original
county of Demoine to make the boundaries of Van Buren as they now
are, after detaching a part of its territory which was added to
Davis. The present county contains four hundred eighty-four square
miles and lies in the second tier west of the Mississippi River with
the southern boundary the Missouri State line. The Des Moines River
flows through it in a southeasterly direction for a distance of
forty-five miles, having numerous tributaries and borders of
excellent timber, dividing the county about equally between woodland
and prairie. Coal and building stone are abundant as well as water
power. The first settler in the county was Abel Galland who took a
claim near where Farmington stands, in 1832.
The first white man who built a cabin where Keosauqua now stands
was John Silvers who took a claim in 1835. During the same year
Isaac W. McCarthy, John Tolman, E. Pardom and others settled in the
same vicinity. In the fall Silvers sold his claim to Mr. Seigler
whose wife was the first woman in the county. In 1837 a company
composed of James and Edwin Manning, James Hall, John J. Fairman and
others purchased the Seigler land and laid out a town which was
named Keosauqua, the Indian name for the Des Moines River.
Farmington had been previously laid out and was the first
county-seat where Judge David Irwin held the first court in April,
1837. Many towns were platted in the early days and the rivalry for
the county-seat was very sharp. An act of the Legislature of 1839
located it at Rochester but the Governor vetoed the act.
Commissioners chosen the same year by the Legislature located the
county-seat at Keosauqua.
Another town was laid out in 1839 by R. King just below Keosauqua
which was named Des Moines City. A dam was built across the river
at this place and a flour dam was built across the river at this
place and a flouring-mill erected. In the fall of that year a small
steamer, the S. B. Science, ascended the Des Moines River to this
dam. It was loaded with Indian goods, provisions and whisky and was
under the command of Captain Clark. In the summer of 1843 a weekly
newspaper was established at Keosauqua named the Iowa Democrat;
its proprietors were Jesse M. Shepherd and John T. Mitchell. One of
the first railroads built in the State was the old Des Moines Valley
which was projected by citizens of Keokuk to follow up the valley of
the Des Moines River from that city to the Minnesota line. This was
the first railroad in Van Buren County
WAHKAW COUNTY was created in 1851 by act of the
Legislature from territory originally embraced in Benton when that
county extended to the Missouri River. The bill which created this
county when reported to the Senate gave the name of "Floyd" in
memory of Sergeant Floyd of the Lewis and Clark expedition who died
in camp in 1804 and was buried on the east side of the Missouri
River south of Sioux City. The Senate passed the bill as introduced
but it was amended in the House by striking out "Floyd" and
inserting "Wahkaw," an Indian name.
An act of the Legislature approved January 12, 1853, provided for
the organization of the county and selected commissioners to locate
the county-seat, the name of which should be Sergeant's Bluff. A
later act of the same Legislature changed the name of the county to
Woodbury, and on the 22d of January, 1853, Wahkaw County ceased to
WAPELLO COUNTY was created in February, 1843, from
territory embraced in the original county of Demoine. It lies in
the fourth tier west of the Mississippi River and in the second
north of the Missouri State line and contains four hundred
thirty-two square miles. The Des Moines River flows through it from
the northwest to southeast, dividing it into nearly equal parts.
The banks were originally covered with a heavy growth of timber
and more than half of the county is under laid with coal of good
quality. The county was named for the Fox chief Wapello, his name
signifying "the prince."
On the 1st of May, 1843, the lands of this county were opened to
settlement and several hundred persons who had camped along the
western border of Jefferson hastened in to take claims. Many
conflicts arose over the hastily made boundary lines which were
usually settled peaceably by the claim committees chosen by the
settlers for the purpose of deciding such contests.
The first election was held in April, 1844, at which the
following county officers were chosen: J. M. Montgomery, L. E.
Temple and C. T. Harrow, commissioners; P. C. Jeffries, probate
judge; Joseph Haynes, sheriff; Thomas Foster, treasurer; M. J.
Spurlock, recorder; Charles Overman, clerk; and Hugh George,
surveyor. The commissioners chosen to locate the county-seat
selected the site where Ottumwa stands. Here a town had been laid
out by the Appanoose Rapids Company in May, 1843, and named Ottumwa,
and Indian word signifying "rapids" or "tumbling water." The
commissioners gave the place the name of Lewisville but the town
proprietors refused to accept that name and adhered to the beautiful
and appropriate Indian name "Ottumwa" and thus preserved for the
future city the name which had never before been given to a town.
Among the pioneers who made the first improvements at the new
county-seat were Dr. C. S. Warden, William Dewey, S. S. Norris, P.
C. Jeffries, David Glass, W. H. Galbraith, John Myers, David Hale
and Herman P. Graves. In 1844 the town consisted of nine log cabins
and one small frame house. David Hale kept the first hotel in a log
cabin and S. Richards opened a store in a similar building. The
mail was carried once a week on horseback from Keosauqua. Rev. T.
M. Kirkpatrick was the first minister in the county, holding
services in a wigwam on Keokuk Prairie in 1843. Dr. Charles S.
Warden was the first physician, coming from Kentucky in 1843. He
for many years practiced medicine over all that region. Ezekiel
Rust taught the first school in a log cabin.
In August, 1848, a weekly newspaper named the Des Moines
Courier was established in Ottumwa by J. H. D. Street and R. H.
Warden and was at that time the most western paper in the United
In early days J. P. Eddy kept an Indian trading post in the
northwest corner of the county on the bank of the Des Moines River.
He continued to keep a store there after the removal of the Indians
and in 1843 laid out a town which he named Eddyville. Agency City,
seven miles east of Ottumwa, takes its name from an old Indian
agency which was established in an early day at that place. It was
the first town laid out in Wapello County. In August, 1859, the
Burlington Railroad was completed to Ottumwa and the following year
the Des Moines Valley Railroad came in from Keokuk.
WARREN COUNTY lies in the third tier north of Missouri, in
the fifth east of the Missouri River and contains five hundred
sixty-nine square miles. It was created in January, 1846, and named
for General Joseph Warren who was killed at the Battle of Bunker
Hill. In 1848 the northern tier of townships was attached to Polk
County. In 1853 these townships, with the exception of a fraction
lying north of the Des Moines River were restored to Warren. Three
rivers, North, Middle and South River flow in an easterly direction
through the county and are bordered by fine timber.
The first settler in the county was John D. Parmelee who built a
log cabin and erected a sawmill on Middle River in 1853, where
lumber was manufactured for building the fort at Raccoon Forks.
William Mason took a claim near Palmyra in the spring of 1845
before the Indians removed from the region. Among the earliest
pioneers were Henry James, Robert Rees, P. P. Henderson, Samuel
Hayworth, D. Booker, Alexander Grindler and Alfred D. Jones. Early
in 1849 P. P. Henderson was appointed sheriff to organize the county
and the first commissioners were Samuel Hayworth, Alexander Grindler
and D. Booker. During this year the commissioners chosen to select
a site for the county-seat met at the house of Alexander Grindler
and decided upon a place near the geographical center of the county
a mile north of South River where a town was laid out and named
Indianola. Among the first to build houses and settle at the new
county-seat was Zebulon Hackett, P. P. Henderson and Amos Booker.
The first election was held on the 1st of January, 1849, at which
the following officers were chosen: judge of probate, Thomas
Feagans; sheriff, P. P. Henderson; clerk, Jonathan Dillon; recorder,
William Ginder; surveyor, Henry Hays; commissioners, Samuel Haworth,
Alexander Grindler and Daniel Barker. In September of the same year
the first court was held in a log school-house by Judge McKay at
which Barlow Granger was district attorney. A log court-house was
built at Indianola in 1851 which for several years was used also for
church services, public meetings, political conventions and schools.
A newspaper was established at Indianola by John W. Murphy who
issued the first number of the Republican on the 24th of
August, 1855. It survived less than a year and was succeeded by the
Indianola Visitor, published by J. H. Knox. The Methodists
organized the first church in Indianola in 1850. At the annual
conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church held at Indianola, in
August, 1860, steps were taken to establish a seminary under the
auspices of that denomination, which in 1867 became "Simpson
Carlisle was laid out in the northern part of the county by Jerry
Church and Daniel Moore in 1851. Norwalk was laid out by George M.
Swan the same year near the northwest corner of the county. The
first railroad built was a branch of the Rock Island running from
Des Moines to Indianola which was completed to that place in
October, 1871. The first movement of the citizens of Warren County
to secure a railroad was made as early as 1853. Efforts continued
for nearly eighteen years before the county-seat became connected
with the railroad lines of the country.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, when first created, was given the name
of "Slaughter" in January, 1838. On the 25th of January, 1839, the
name was fortunately changed to Washington and the boundaries
arranged as they now exist. This is the second county west of the
Mississippi River in the third tier north of Missouri and embraces
five hundred sixty-six square miles.
The first white settler was an Indian trader, Joseph Smart who,
in 1834, established a trading post neat the mouth of Crooked Creek.
In February, 1836, John Black and Adam Ritchey with two brothers
and several neighbors took claims in the southern part of the county
near the Henry County line. Here they built cabins and opened farms
and during the following year Isaac Pence and family, Milo Holcomb
and John B. Bullock took claims near them. In the fall of 1836
Richard Moore and others settled in Washington township about three
miles from where the county-seat was established. Immigration
increased rapidly from this time and in 1838 the county had a large
number of permanent settlers. In 1837, when the county was called
Slaughter, a town had been laid out in the present township of
Oregon named Astoria, which became the county-seat and here a log
court-house was built.
In 1839 commissioners appointed to select a site for the
permanent county-seat located it at Washington. In December of the
same year Joseph Adams built the first house, a double log cabin one
part for a residence and the other for a blacksmith shop. The
second house was built by Daniel Powers for a hotel with two rooms
on the ground and a loft above. The store was opened in May, 1840,
by John Daugherty. Rev. J. L. Kirkpatrick, a Methodist minister,
organized a religious society in October, 1839. Thomas Baker was
the first postmaster and Dr. George H. Stone the first physician at
A mill had been built on Crooked Creek as early as 1837 by Milo
Holcomb and John B. Bullock. The first post-office in the county
was Pottsville, of which David Goble was postmaster; it was supplied
with mail semimonthly by M. Higbee who carried it on foot from
Wapello in Louisa County. On the 17th of June, 1839, Judge Williams
held the first court at the new county-seat.
About the year 1844 a newspaper was established at Washington by
Lewis F. Walden and J. F. Rice called the Washington Argus
and was Democratic in politics.
In August, 1858, a branch of the Mississippi and Missouri
Railroad was completed to Washington. Brighton is a thriving town
in the southeast part of the county on the line of the Southwestern
Railroad. The principal streams flowing through the county are the
Skunk and English rivers and Crooked Creek, the banks of which are
bordered by native timber.
WAYNE COUNTY was created on the 13th of January, 1846, and
lies on the Missouri line about midway between the Mississippi and
the Missouri rivers, containing five hundred twenty-three square
miles. It was named for General Anthony Wayne of the Revolutionary
War. Branches of the Chariton and Grand rivers flow through the
county in a southerly direction cutting channels to a depth of from
one hundred to one hundred fifty feet. These streams are usually
bordered by timber and numerous groves are scattered over the
In 1840 D. S. Duncan, H. P. Sullivan and H. B. Duncan of Kentucky
took claims on Grand River close to the State line near the present
town of Lineville. Other settlers soon came, locating in the timber
lands along the streams. Among them were Henderson Walker, Benjamin
Barker, Hiram Mason, I. W. McCarthy, Joseph Rains, George Garman,
Seth Anderson and Isaac Wilson. In November, 1850, Dr. I. W.
McCarthy was appointed sheriff to organize the county. The
following officers were elected in August, 1851: Seth Anderson,
judge; Thomas McPherson, clerk; D. Payton, recorder and treasurer,
and I. W. McCarthy, sheriff. Thirty votes were cast at this
election and the amount of revenue the first year was $64.30.
The commissioners chosen to locate the county-seat in the spring
of 1851 selected the site where Corydon stands and gave it the name
of Springfield but as there was already a town of that name in the
State, upon the suggestion of Judge Anderson, it was changed to
Corydon for a town of that name in Indiana. The ground was
purchased by the county, a town platted by Benjamin Barker and J. F.
Statton, the lots appraised and offered for sale. George Garman
purchased the first lot for thirty-eight dollars upon which he built
a house in which he opened a store. The first sermon was preached
by Rev. Morgan Parr, a Christian minister. In the spring of 1852 a
term of court was held by Judge McKay in an unfinished log house.
The first newspaper in the county was the South Tier
Democrat established in 1858 by Cutler and Binkley at Corydon.
Lineville, which lies near the State line, in the southwest corner
of the county was the first town laid out, in 1848. Allerton is a
thriving town four miles southwest of Corydon. The Chicago and
Southwestern Railroad was the first built into the county. The
Chariton River was named for a French trader who was the first to
establish a post near its mouth in Missouri. His name was also
given to a county in Missouri where his old trading post stood and
later to the county-seat of Lucas County in Iowa.
WEBSTER COUNTY, as first established in January, 1853, is
now Hamilton, but by an act of the same General Assembly, which took
place six months later, the counties of Yell and Risley were united
under the name of Webster and the original county of Webster was
named Hamilton. In July, 1855, the south half of Humboldt was added
to Webster. The latter county was named for the famous
Massachusetts lawyer, Daniel Webster, and these numerous changes in
boundaries were made through the influence of the proprietors of the
towns of Webster City and Fort Dodge in order to secure to them the
Henry Lott and others went into the Des Moines valley near the
mouth of the Boone River in 1847 and soon after Isaac Bell, Jacon
Mericle, Tolman Woolsey, D. B. Spaulding, Orsborn Brannon, John
Tolman, Thomas Holliday, and William Pierce settled in the southern
part of Webster County along the Des Moines River and tributaries.
Rev. John Johns was a famous hunter and pioneer preacher in that
vicinity. Up to 1853 about one hundred fifty settlers had made
homes along the river south of Fort Dodge.
In August, 1853, an election was held and the following county
officers were chosen: William Pierce, judge; Tolman Woolsey,
recorder and treasurer; Jesse Goodrich, clerk; J. Doty, sheriff, and
John Tolman, school fund commissioner. A town was laid out on a
beautiful prairie between the Des Moines and Boone rivers in the
fall of 1853 named Homer which was made the first county-seat.
There the first court was held in the fall of 1854 by Judge
McFarland. Granville Berkley was the first postmaster at Homer,
which made a rapid growth.
The old fort had been vacated by the soldiers in October, 1853,
and Major William Williams had charge of the abandoned Government
property. Soon after the land, which had been reserved for the
post, was offered for sale and purchased by a syndicate at the head
of which was Major Williams. In March, 1854, the survey and plat of
the original town of Fort Dodge was completed, the survey having
been made by S. C. Wood of Boone County. The syndicate consisted of
Colonel Jesse Williams, John Lemp, Bernhart Henn and George Gillaspy
and was known as the "Fort Dodge Land Company." Major William
Williams was the resident manager who made the purchase of the lands
and caused the town of Fort Dodge to be laid out. A post-office was
established and Major Williams was appointed postmaster. In 1855 a
United States Land Office was established at Fort Dodge and the town
became a competitor to Homer for the county-seat.
Among the earliest settlers at Fort Dodge were John F. Duncombe,
John L. Cheyney, H. Beecher, H. A. Cramer, C. H. Vincent, W. O.
Ruggles, E. G. Morgan, John Garrahty, Albert Morrison and Ezekiel
Hinton. A plan was devised by citizens of Fort Dodge and Newcastle,
on the Boone River, to divide the county and make each of these
towns the county-seat of the new counties thus created. The first
step was calling an election in April, 1856, for the removal of the
county-seat from Homer to Fort Dodge. By cooperation of the
citizens of Fort Dodge and Newcastle and the entire northern part of
the county Fort Dodge was successful. The Legislature of 1857
divided the large county of Webster, creating the county of Hamilton
out of the eastern part and the county-seat was established at
Webster City, the new name for the town of Newcastle. The division
line between the new counties left Homer close to the west side of
Hamilton and was a death blow to a town which had made a remarkable
growth, and was at one time the most important in northwestern Iowa.
Business and citizens deserted it, houses and stores were left
without tenants and for years it was a deserted village.
The boundaries of Hamilton were made identical with the original
county of Webster the present county containing none of the
territory of the original county of that name. On the 26th of
February, 1857, the north tier of townships of Webster County was
annexed to the new county of Humboldt, leaving Webster with an area
of seven hundred twenty square miles.
The first sermon preached in Fort Dodge was by the Rev. J. H.
Burleigh in the fall of 1851 in a hospital tent. Williams and Lemp
operated the first store in 1855 and C. C. Carpenter, afterwards
Governor, taught the first school in the winter of 1855-6. Hoyt
Sherman and E. W. Lucas of Des Moines bought the first lots sold in
Fort Dodge in March, 1855. John F. Duncombe opened the first law
office in April and Dr. S. B. Olney was the first physician. The
first hotel was opened in 1854 by W. R. Miller in one of the
barracks. In July, 1856, A. S. White established the first
newspaper in northwestern Iowa, at Fort Dodge. It was a weekly
Democratic journal named the Fort Dodge Sentinel. The first
railroad built into the county was the Iowa Falls and Sioux City
which reached Fort Dodge in May, 1869. In Webster County are found
extensive deposits of gypsum and its manufacture into stucco is one
of the most important industries in the State. A history of the
establishment of a military post at Fort Dodge is given elsewhere.
WINNEBAGO COUNTY lies on the Minnesota line about midway
between the east and west boundaries of the State. It was at one
time a part of the old county of Fayette but in 1851 was created by
act of the General Assembly with present boundaries and named for
the Indian tribe that at one time occupied a portion of northern
Iowa. The county contains nearly twelve congressional townships,
making an area of four hundred three square miles and was at
different times attached to the counties of Polk, Boone and Webster.
The first white settler within the limits of Winnebago was George
W. Thomas who, early in 1855, took a claim and opened a farm at Rice
Lake. On the 27th of September of the same year John Mabin made a
claim on the east side of Lime Creek where Forest City stands. P.
Tennis, J. Gilchrist and J. C. Bonar arrived during the summer of
1856 and Robert Clark, john S. Blowers, A. T. Cole, Henry Allen, J.
L. Hitt and others settled in the southern part of the county with
their families. In the fall of the same year Samuel Tennis,
Archibald Murray and William Gilbert made homes in the northern part
of the county. In 1857 several Norwegian families arrived and from
year to year many of their countrymen joined them, making a large
settlement of that nationality. Most of the early settlers made
their homes in the groves along Lime Creek which were numerous and
abounded in game. This stream is a tributary of Shellrock River and
affords good water power. Twin Lakes and Rice Lake in the eastern
part of the county are clear and beautiful sheets of water. The
greater part of the land of Winnebago west of Lime Creek is rolling
prairie of great fertility.
In the fall of 1856 Judge Robert Clark laid out a town on the
west bank of Lime Creek, half a mile from the south line of the
county, which was named Forest City. A post-office was established
of which Mr. Clark was post-master. He built a mill on the creek
and opened a store.
The county was organized in the fall of 1857 by the election of
the following officers: Robert Clark, judge; C. H. Day, recorder
and treasurer; B. F. Dinslow, clerk; John S. Blowers, sheriff, and
C. W. Scott, superintendent of schools. In 1858 the commissioners
chosen to locate the county-seat gave it to Forest City. On the
14th of June, 1867, J. W. Kelley issued the first number of a weekly
newspaper named the Winnebago Press. It was printed on an
old hand press which was first used at Belmont when that town was
the Capital of Wisconsin and Iowa. It was moved to Burlington in
1837 and used to print the second paper established within the
limits of the Territory which became Iowa in 1838 and is reported to
have done good service on papers at Osage, Mason City and Ellington
before it was taken to Forest City. In the fall of 1869 the village
of Lake Mills was laid out by Charles D. Smith where a large mill
WINNESHIEK COUNTY was established in 1847 from territory
embraced in the original county of Fayette. It lies in the second
tier west of the Mississippi River and extends north to the
Minnesota line. It is one of the large counties containing twenty
townships, embracing an area of six hundred ninety-four square
miles. The county was named for a noted chief of the Winnebago
Indians whose name appears on the records "Kinnoskik" which
signifies "coming thunder." The surface of the county is divided
between prairie and woodland, with high bluffs along the streams.
The Upper Iowa and Turkey rivers with numerous tributaries flow
Fort Atkinson was erected in 1840 when the country was occupied
by the Winnebago Indians who remained until 1848. A mission school
was also established for the education of the Indian children, in
connection with a large farm, where efforts were made to teach them
agriculture. After removal of the Indians the mission was abandoned
and the farm sold to white settlers.
Among the first settlers were Francis Rogers, George Bachel,
David Reed, F. J. Huber, William Day, George Ream, William Painter
and Philip Morse who took claims in 1848. In 1849 Painter and
Aldridge built the first mill in the county on the Upper Iowa River
near where Decorah now stands. William Day built one of the first
log cabins, in 1849, where Decorah was located. It was occupied by
his family of nine persons and also sheltered travelers until winter
when he built the Winneshiek House. Several families built cabins
near him in 1850-51 and a village grew up which was given the name
of Decorah, for an Indian chief of the Winnebagos, whose village and
burial ground was at that place.
In 1851 the first steps were taken to organize a county
government and a vote was taken upon the location of the county-seat
which resulted in the choice of Decorah. The officers chosen were
David Reed, judge; Joseph Brown, clerk; George Bachel, sheriff, and
David Kuykendall, recorder and treasurer. The first term of court
was held at the house of William Day in Decorah in September, 1851.
J. B. Onstine was the first lawyer and Aaron Newell opened a store
the same year in a "slab shanty." Elder Bishop of the Methodist
Church was the pioneer preacher who came in 1851. A school-house
was built in 1853 in which T. W. Burdick gave instruction. For
several years efforts were made to remove the county-seat from
Decorah which delayed the building of a court-house until 1856. In
1855 a United States Land office was established which brought many
there to enter land.
In 1856 the Decorah Chronicle, a weekly newspaper, was
established. A college was founded in 1865 at DEcorah by the
Norwegian Lutheran Synod. A branch of the Milwaukee Railroad was
built to the town in 1869.
WOODBURY COUNTY is one of the largest in the State,
embracing an area of eight hundred seventy-three square miles. It
was first named Wahkaw but changed to Woodbury, January 22, 1851, in
honor of Judge Levi Woodbury of the United States Supreme Court.
The county lies on the Missouri River in the fourth tier south of
Minnesota. Along the river in this vicinity is a broad expanse of
level bottom land of great fertility, varying in width from five to
ten miles. The bluffs beyond are high, steep and in places broken
into deep ravines and lofty ridges, gradually spreading out into
gently rolling prairie. The principal interior streams are the
Floyd River, branches of the Little Sioux and Maple rivers and Perry
Creek. The Big Sioux forms a part of the western boundary.
The Indian title to this part of Iowa was extinguished in 1847.
Early in 1848, forty-four years after this region was visited by
the Lewis and Clark exploring expedition, a single adventurous
pioneer, William Thompson, made his way up the Missouri valley and
settled at Floyd's Bluff, within the limits of what is now Woodbury
County. Here he built a log cabin, opened trade with the Indians
and laid out a town which he named Thompsonville. After Wahkaw
County was created this became the county-seat, but having no
steamboat landing, made but little progress and in a few years was
abandoned. In May, 1849, Theophile Brugnier a Frenchman who had
married an Indian wife, built a cabin on the bluff near the mouth of
the Big Sioux about two miles above where Sioux City stands. In the
fall of the same year Robert Perry, an eccentric but well educated
man from Washington D. C., settled near a creek where Sioux City
stands; he lived there several years and his name was given to the
creek. In 1850 Paul Paquette built a cabin about two miles from the
mouth of the Big Sioux River.
In 1853, soon after the change of name, the county was organized
and the county-seat located at Floyd's Bluff. The first county
officials were Marshal Townsley, judge; Hiram Nelson, recorder and
treasurer; and Joseph P. Babbitt, clerk. At this time Woodbury
County embraced a large territory north and east which has since
been divided into several counties. In 1854 J. K. Cook, a
government contractor, came with a party and bought claims in the
vicinity of Sioux City. Among those who owned claims in this
locality was the gallant General Lyon who was killed at the Battle
of Wilson's Creek, the first year of the Civil War. In the winter
of 1854 Sioux City was platted and among the pioneers in and about
the new town were Joseph Lionels, Hiram Nelson, Francis Chappel, G.
W. Chamberlin and Marshal Townsley. In July 1855, a stage line was
established supplying the town with weekly mail. The first term of
court was held at Floyd's Bluff by Judge Riddle in September, 1855.
Numerous settlers arrived in Sioux City early in 1856 and the
population of the new town was one hundred fifty. By a vote of the
people the county-seat was moved from Floyd's Bluff to Sioux City
where a United States Land office was established in 1855.
The Omaha, a steamboat from St. Louis, arrived at Sioux
City in June, 1856, loaded with provisions and lumber framed ready
to be converted into houses. In July a steam sawmill was built.
The first white women in the new town were Mrs. S. H. Casady and
Mrs. J. R. Myers who arrived with their husbands in the summer of
1855. By the close of the year 1856 the population had increased to
more than four hundred, and ninety buildings had been erected. On
the Fourth of July, 1857, S. W. Swiggett issued the first number of
a weekly newspaper named the Iowa Eagle.
In 1853 Mr. Shook settled on the Little Sioux River at a place
which took the name of Correctionville. R. Candreau, C. Bacon and
M. Kellogg arrived the next year. For many years Correctionville
was a station on the old stage line from Fort Dodge to Sioux City.
Another one of the early settlements was made on the Little Sioux
River near the south line of the county at Smithland. In 1857, when
Inkpaduta's band of Sioux Indians came through this settlement on
the way to Spirit Lake, hostile demonstrations were made and the
settlers gathered and disarmed a number of the Indians. The savages
stole other arms, however, and continued their journey up the
Sergeant's Bluff was laid out in 1856 by Crockwell and Dr. Wright
of Independence. It was a rival of Sioux City, lying six miles
south. In 1857 a newspaper was established by Cummings and Ziebach,
named the Western Independent which was later removed to
Sioux City where it became the Sioux City Register. The
Sioux City and Pacific Railroad was completed to Sioux City in
WORTH COUNTY was created in 1851 and named for General
William J. Worth who was prominent officer in the Mexican War. It
lies on the Minnesota line in the fifth tier west of the Mississippi
and contains an area of four hundred two square miles. Tributaries
of the Shellrock River and Lime Creek flow through the county in a
southerly direction and in the northwest portion are Silver Lake,
Rice Lake and Bright's Lake, all small sheets of water. There were
originally about 10,000 acres of native woodland along the Shellrock
and in groves scattered over the county.
The first settlements were made by Gulbrand Olsen and Norwegian
companions in June, 1853. They made claims on the Shellrock near
where Northwood stands where water power was found. In the spring
of 1854 Simon Rustad, Chris. Amandsen, Ole Lee and three brothers
named Hart settled in a grove on the Shellrock near the State line.
In 1855 D. H. Phelps, Tilly McWithy and Hiram Bilton with two sons
made claims in the same vicinity. In May, 1855, Charles Johnson
took a claim at Rice Lake in the vicinity of Bristol. During that
season many families settled in that part of the county and at
Silver Lake, on Elk Creek, at Wright's Grove and Glen Mary.
The town of Northwood was laid out in November, 1857, by Charles
Wardell and the next year Lemuel Dwelle and Joel Dayton platted
additions to it. The first store was opened in September by B. H.
Beckett in the first frame building which was erected by S. H.
Franklin. Goods were transported from McGregor by wagon, a distance
of one hundred thirty miles. A post-office was established in 1857,
of which Dr. S. H. Franklin was postmaster. In the summer of 1858
Charles Wardell built a dam across the Shellrock River and erected a
sawmill. The town of Bristol was platted in the spring of 1857 by
Chancy S. Lane and J. S. Loveland, in the western part of the
county. Dr. James Keeler had settled on the site of the town in
1856 and the largest settlement in the county had grown up in that
vicinity. A store was opened in Bristol in 1857 and a post-office
was established the same year with Dr. James Keeler postmaster.
The county was organized in October, 1857, and the following
officers were chosen: Dr. James Keeler, judge; C. S. Lane,
treasurer and recorder; B. K. Walker, clerk; Lorin Turnure, sheriff;
and Amos Bentley, prosecuting attorney. Bristol and Northwood were
from the first rivals for the county-seat and the commissioners
appointed to select a location gave it to Bristol. The citizens of
that town realized the dangers of ultimate removal, as their town
was near the west line of the county. To remove this peril they
petitioned the Legislature for the purpose of securing a change in
the county boundaries by adding a portion of the territory of the
east side of Worth to Mitchell and annexing a part of Winnebago on
the west. In this they were not successful and in 1863 the
county-seat was removed to Northwood by a vote of one hundred
fifteen to forty. No court-house had been built at Bristol and the
first term of court was held in a log cabin by Judge John Porter in
September, 1859. On the 24th of October, 1869, the first newspaper,
called the Northwood Pioneer, was issued by P. D. Swick The
Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railroad runs through the
county from south to north and the Milwaukee runs through the
WRIGHT COUNTY was established by act of the General
Assembly in 1851 and named for Silas Wright, a New York statesman
and Governor Joseph A. Wright of Indiana. The county lies in the
third tier south of the Minnesota line and in the sixth west of the
Mississippi River. It is twenty-four miles square and contains five
hundred seventy-six square miles. The Iowa River runs through the
eastern portion of the county from north to south and the Boone
River flows through the western tier of townships in the same
direction. Excellent borders of timber are found along the banks of
these rivers while the land between was, in early days, a vast
rolling prairie of great fertility.
The first pioneer who made a home in the county was Major Anson
Brassfield who, in 1854, made a claim on the banks of the Boone
River in what is now Liberty township. The following year he
constructed a dam across the river and built the first mill in the
county. S. B. Hewett, his son, S. B. Hewett, Jr., and N. B. Paine
of Massachusetts, in 1854 settled at Eagle Grove near the Boone
River where they opened farms. H. B. Martin settled the same year
near the mouth of Otter Creek where he laid out the town of Liberty.
The same year three families located near the Iowa River, not far
from where Belmont stands and William Stryker made a claim at Bach
Grove. In 1855 Dr. L. H. Cutler, A. Dumont and T. Oliver took
claims near the Iowa River in the vicinity of Belmont. In July of
the same year William Gray, H. Luie and A. Overcracker settled near
the Iowa River in the northeast corner of the county. C. H. Martin
located on the Boone River in the northwest corner in 1855.
The first meeting to organize the county was held at the cabin of
S. B. Hewett in Eagle Grove in the spring of 1854. At an election
held in August the following officers were chosen: David Dean,
judge; C. H. Martin, clerk; Anson Brassfield, recorder and
treasurer; S. Crapper, sheriff; S. B. Hewett, Jr., surveyor, and N.
B. Paine, prosecuting attorney. In 1856 John Melrose built and
opened the first store in the county at liberty which was the first
county-seat. A town was laid out on the Iowa River in the summer of
1856 by A. Dumont, J. Elder and E. Rogers and was first named Crown
Point, afterwards changed to Belmont. A dam was constructed across
the Iowa River where a saw and grist-mill was built by Dr. L. H.
Cutler, who also built the first house in the new town.
Several small lakes are found in the county the largest of which
is Wall Lake, in the township of that name. In early days a wall of
boulders was found along its shores, crowded there by the floating
ice driven by the winds for thousands of years and from this wall
the lake derived its name. When the first settlers arrived a large
elm tree stood upon the southeast shore of a beautiful little lake
lying near the geographical center of the county. It was given the
name of Elm Lake. Cornelia Lake was named for the daughter of E. K.
Eastman, one of the early settlers. Twin Lakes lie about four miles
north of Cornelia. The first settler at Wall Lake was E. P. Purcell
who built a cabin on its northern shore in 1856. Here he lived with
his family for five years before the arrival of other settlers.
The first newspaper in the county was established by George D.
Ingersoll at Liberty in 1861. It was named the Wright County
Free Press and was published weekly. In 1865, one hundred
twenty acres of land were purchased by the county near its
geographical center where a town was platted and named Clarion,
which became the county-seat. The largest town in the county has
grown up at Eagle Grove where the Northwestern Railroad crossed the
Mason City and Fort Dodge line.
YELL COUNTY was created by act of the General Assembly in
1851 and embraced all of the present territory of Webster except the
north tier of congressional townships. It was named for the second
Governor of Arkansas, Colonel Archibald Yell, who was killed at the
Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican War. The county had never been
organized up to 1853, when by act of the Legislature it was
incorporated with the new county of Webster. This county was formed
by uniting the former county of Webster, which had first been named
Risley, with Yell County, making thirty-two congressional townships,
to which the name of Webster was given. By this act the county of
Yell ceased to exist.