About Howard County
Howard County, formally organized by Judge James Lyon of Chickasaw County in July 17, 1855, is named in honor of General Tilghman Ashurst Howard. He held various offices in Tennessee and Indiana and was a long time friend of Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston.
A county seat battle raged in Howard County for 25 years. The county seat has been in the towns of Vernon Springs, Howard Center and New Oregon. Finally, in 1858, to put a stop to these battles, the county seat was located between the towns of Vernon Springs and New Oregon at a site called Pike's Peak. In February 1859 the courthouse was built with money raised by residents of Vernon Springs and New Oregon. This building was deemed unsafe and abandoned in 1865. The county records were then moved to a stone building in Vernon Springs.
In 1867 the citizens of Shook's Grove (now called Cresco) offered the county a new building. It was constructed by the Howard County Court House Association. In July 1867 the Board of Supervisors moved into this building but exceeded its authority when it did this, so the decision went to an election. The voters favored keeping the courthouse at Pike's Peak, but county business was still conducted at Cresco.
In 1868 the treasurer's office was broken into, and $13,000 in money and securities was stolen. The person responsible was never apprehended.
This arrangement continued until the courthouse at Cresco burned down on December 1, 1876. After the fire the citizens of Cresco agreed to extend the city limits to include Pike's Peak. With this done, the Board of Supervisors then relocated the courthouse to the town square. It was here where Howard County built its present courthouse. This Italianate-Classic style building, constructed of light red brick, was completed in January 1880.
The courthouse association paid $5,707.90, and the county paid $1,040 for the building.
Cresco downtown with the courthouse in the center, circa 1908 panoramic photo from the Library of Congress files.
In 1964 voters approved a $60,000 bond issue to improve the courthouse. Two additions provided for more storage in the vault and more office space. The main structure is still much as it was when completed in 1880.
(Taken from History of County Governments in Iowa, published in 1992 by the Iowa State Association of Counties, Des Moines, Iowa)
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A special thanks to all who have submitted and transcribed information for the Howard County, Iowa Website: Shirley Decker, Jan Ehresmann, Marilyn Erion, Matthew Friend, Kay Gavin, Leonard Granger, Melba Jenkins, Paul Maruska, Barbara Nagy, John Oberreuter, Mike Peterson, Janice Sowers, Joel Swink, Paul Vasold, Randy Wurzer, and Roseanna Zehner.