Jasper Co. IAGenWeb
Past and Present of Jasper Co.


Past and Present of Jasper County Iowa
B.F. Bowden & Company, Indianapolis, IN, 1912

The county, as well as the state and nation, must have good men at the head of its government in order that the best results be obtained. In the main, Jasper County has been ruled by men of intelligence and honesty, there have been exceptions to this rule, however. The large defaulters chronicled in many other parts of the commonwealth have not burdened the taxpayers of this county to any great extent. In common with other counties, it took some time to get used to the various governmental changes, as, for instance, in the matters of a change from the county commissioner system to that of the almost one-man power of the old county judge system adopted by Iowa in 1851; then the change to the county supervisor system in 1861, by which the county judge was almost entirely shorn of his authority, and the county controlled by one man from each township within the county, all of whom formed the county board. Then, in 1868-9, the creation of a county auditor system -the finest system yet conceived of for accurately keeping the accounts of the county - by which the auditor becomes ex-officio clerk of the board of supervisors. The various methods of levying and collecting taxes, caring for the highways and the unfortunate poor in the county-these and a score more of things which have gone through change after change, have each and all required time and good judgment in order to simplify and readjust the old and understand the new methods of carrying on a good and popular government. Aside from, possibly, two items in our county affairs, the present system needs but little legislative revision to be in harmony with just and popular laws for the affairs of running the ninety-nine counties of Iowa - the matter of better equalization of taxes and more business-like methods for building and maintaining public roads. Here there is no doubt that a field is open for great improvement. Properly expended, the vast sums of money collected for road and bridge purposes could be made to make many times the number of good miles of roads that now exist in every county in Iowa.


The wheels of county government were set in motion April 14, 1846, with the following as county officers in charge of affairs: Joab Bennett, John R. Sparks and Manly Gifford, commissioners; John H. Franklin, clerk; J. W, Swain, treasurer; David Edmundson, sheriff; Seth Hammer, recorder; Washington Fleenor, probate judge.

The first order given by the commissioners was "That the eagle side of a ten-cent piece or dime, of the coin of the United States, be and the same is hereby adopted as the temporary seal of the board of county commissioners of the county of Jasper, aforesaid, until a proper seal may be provided for the use of said board."

Now will follow the more important acts of the board, in about the chronological order they transpired, as seen by the records of the county. But before introducing the record on these matters, it will be best to state that the name of the county seat was changed as follows:

Chapter 22, of the acts of the First General Assembly of Iowa, approved February 3, 1847, reads as follows: "Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa, that the name of the town of 'Newton City,' the county seat of Jasper County, be and the same is hereby changed to that of 'Newton.'"

At the July meeting of the county board, the first tax was made a matter of record, it being a levy of four mills for county purposes and a half mill for school purposes. At the same time the treasury was in receipt of twenty-five dollars from Jacob Bennett, who paid his license to keep a grocery in Newton.

The following day the following order was made: "That John R. Sparks be appointed as agent for the County of Jasper, to act as such to borrow money for and to enter at the land office at Iowa City the quarter section of land that the town of Newton is located on for the seat of justice of Jasper County, who shall use all exertions to procure funds for the same by paying an interest not to exceed twenty per cent."

October 4, T 847 - That day the court house erected by Evan Adamson was accepted and an order allowing him the sum of one hundred seventy-five dollars in "town money," which amounted to the eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents voted him in full for the construction of the first court house of the county.

January 4. 1848 - The clerk was instructed to give notice that there would be a sale of lots in Newton, commencing on the 31st day of January 1848, and that it would be continued from day to day until a sufficient sum had been realized to defray the expenses of entering the land selected for county seat purposes.

April 10, 1848 - The board assumed control and jurisdiction over Marshall County, by establishing a township in that territory of the name of Minerva Creek, with a polling place at the house of George W. Halley.

At the meeting in July 1848, the board levied a four-mill tax on the dollar for county revenue, two and a half mills for state purposes, and a half mill for school purposes.

Silas Dooley, sheriff and assessor, was allowed thirty dollars for assessing the county, summoning jury, etc.

The board also ordered that the portion of the state road running from Granville Hendry's, in Marion County, to Fort Des Moines, which lay in Jasper county, be declared open for travel.

At the October 2, 1848, meeting of the board, Joab Bennett was employed to ceil one of the small rooms in the courthouse, for which he was to receive sixteen dollars in "town funds."

Nathan Williams and Thomas J. Adamson became the purchasers of out-lots Nos. 18 and 19 in Newton, toward which they applied as part payment a stove valued at twelve dollars.

At this same meeting of the board difficulty was found relative to the county borrowing money and the following orders were made: "That the county be forthcoming to Nathan Williams and John R. Sparks for money to enter the town quarter the seat of justice of Jasper County; whereas, the said Williams and Sparks borrowed money of A. T. Prouty, and gave their own individual notes for the same to enter said land, and the same, or a large part of it, still remains unpaid, the county commissioners now assume the payment of the same, and all interest and accruing interest and costs that may accrue on the same.

"Ordered, that John B. Hammock be appointed commissioner's agent in the stead of Nathan Williams to borrow any moneys or use any reasonable means of getting money on the faith of the county, to pay the expense of entering the seat of justice of Jasper County."

The money had been borrowed on the expectation that an apportionment of school money was to be made to the county, and it had been stipulated by the makers of the note that they were allowed to borrow this till the county would be able to replace the money in the school fund commissioner's hands out of a subsequent tax levy. It was a sort of "accommodation" paper, which operated then as it has later, to fool the parties who gave it worse than anybody else.

At the July meeting in 1849, the county treasurer reported the receipts for the last year to have been $266.42 in county orders and $312.50 in "town orders."

The board then levied taxes as follows: County, four mills; state, two and a half mills; school, one mill.

The total amount of taxable property in 1849 was $94,366. There were one hundred and seventy-six persons liable to pay a poll tax. There were eight silver watches, and $4,842 in coin and bank notes in possession, but it is likely that all was not given in then, as is the case nowadays. There were also three hundred and one horses over two years old, six hundred and eighty-eight head of cattle over two years of age and two mules. The number of sheep listed was seven hundred and ninety-four and one thousand seven hundred sixty-three swine - "prairie rooters." Four carriages were found by the assessor, but not a single piano within Jasper County!

In March 1850, the record shows that "The late treasurer paid over the sum of $365.23, the amount of tax for 1849 received by him."

Jesse Rickman, school fund commissioner, made his report to the board, showing that the net sum collected and in his hands was $421.23.

April 1851 - Ordered that the trustees of the parsonage of the mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church have a deed for lot No.8 in block No. 25. This donation to the church was among the last, if not the last, acts of the county commissioners whose office had been legislated out and they gave way to the newly created office of county judge, which obtained until another ten years had rolled around and the supervisor system had been established in all Iowa counties by the provisions of the code of 1851. The last board of commissioners adjourned July 28, 1851.


Jesse Rickman was elected as Jasper County's first county judge. His first act was to rearrange the townships of the county, and when he had performed this task there were seven sub-divisions in Jasper County. His next act was to issue marriage license to William Hammer and Ruth Hinshaw; the document bears date of August 14, 1851.

August 30, 1856, the old courthouse was sold at auction to Caleb Lamb for one hundred fifty dollars.

In September of the same year last named, the county treasurer was compelled to furnish a bond for thirty thousand dollars, instead of the sixteen thousand dollar bond given before, for the reason that the county expected the next levy to bring to his hands about twenty-five thousand dollars. This additional bond was signed by P. G. D. Morton, J. W. Macy, Taylor Pierce and M. A. Blanchard,

December 10, 1856, the county treasurer reported that the tax lists for 1848, 1849, 1850 and 1851 had been lost. It was therefore ordered that he have credit for the amount of tax delinquents on those lists, which amounted to two hundred eighty-seven dollars.,

February 17, 1857, the county judge again made changes in the boundaries of certain townships in this county and created other new ones.,

During the Legislature of 1856-7 a law passed requiring the county judge to affix his warrant to the tax book of 1854, ordering the treasurer to collect the taxes delinquent therein, and that the treasurer proceed to collect said taxes, and he was also ordered to pay over all money he had collected prior to the passage of that act. The county was made accountable to the treasurer for any damages he might sustain in making the collections called for,

In the autumn of 1860 the county judge submitted to vote the question whether a sufficient portion of the swampland fund should be diverted for the purpose of erecting necessary bridges and for the redemption of bonds issued for the building of the courthouse.

December 31, 1860, the county judge made a contract with J. W. May to build a bridge at Parker's Ferry, on South Skunk, to be completed by the first of the following April, for which he was to receive four hundred eighty-five dollars. On the same day B. Manning received his warrant for constructing a bridge at Manning's Ferry, for which he was to be paid seven hundred eighty-six dollars.

The last act of the county judge before handing over the reins of county government was to fix the boundary lines between Fairview and Elk Creek Townships.


The first board of county supervisors, as ordered by the new law, held its session the first week in January 1861. The first board was made up of the following gentlemen: David McCord (chairman), William N. Harrah, C. M. Davis, Morris Cating, Salem Jeffries, Reuben Johnson, John McCracken, G. W. Chinn, Caleb Jordan, James E. Butler, Andrew G. Groves, William G, Romans, Perry Matteson, Elisha Flaugh and George Ryan


Among the earliest acts of the board of supervisors may be mentioned the dividing of Mound Prairie Township and the formation of a new township to be known as Washington. This was dated June 1861.

At the same session of the board it was learned that two thousand dollars of interest was due and delinquent to the permanent school fund. S. G. Smith, county attorney, was directed to push the collection of the same as speedily as possible.

The board decided to apply one-half of the proceeds of the sale of swamplands to the drainage of the same, and the other to building bridges.


At the September meeting of the board came up the important matter of drainage of Jasper County's swamplands. It was resolved that the drainage commissioner be authorized to expend such sums, not exceeding three hundred dollars, as he might deem necessary in the Townships of Poweshiek, Clear Creek, Elk Creek, Fairview and Palo Alto, for the purpose of draining the swamp lands therein. Underground drains were to be used and the work was to be paid for in the lands at one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, unless in case where the lands were worth more, when the lands were to be sold and contractors paid in cash.

In June 1862, the board agreed with John Henry, N. L. Williams and others, representing a company formed for the purpose, to transfer the swamp lands lying adjacent to the road crossing, either at Parker's or Manning's Bridge over South Skunk River, to the company on condition that the proposed corporation should construct approaches to the stream which should be above the high water mark, as well as drain the lands transferred. In exchange for this the company was granted the privilege of taking tolls for crossing the bridge selected by them, the amount to be regulated by the board.

At the same session the committee on poor was instructed to inquire into the expediency of purchasing a poor farm.

In 1863 the board agreed with the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad Company and the Western Stage Company to have a sufficient roadway made across Skunk bottom at Parker's Bridge, the county contributing four thousand dollars, the railway one thousand dollars, and the stage company five hundred dollars.


In 1873, or possibly a year later, one John Hessdorfer and family passed through Jasper County on his way to Nebraska. While crossing the South Skunk bottoms his team became frightened, backed off the bridge and in the fall one of the children was killed and other members of his family injured and the wagon badly broken up. Mr. Hessdorfer employed Winslow & Wilson, attorneys, to bring action against Jasper County in his behalf. The case was tried in Mahaska County, and he was awarded a verdict of four thousand five hundred dollars. This county appealed the case to the state supreme court. In the meantime J. W. Wilson has been appointed administrator for the deceased child, and he brought suit to recover the value of the child's services till it should have become of age, claiming five thousand dollars therefor. It was a long-drawn-out case, with compromise here and there, and finally resulted in the county having to pay the plaintiff, in October 1876, the sum of four thousand dollars and costs, to be paid in installments.


Perhaps there is no better way to show the thrift and growth of the county in the last third of a century than to give the assessed valuation for the year 1878 and that of 1910:

Townships Assessed Valuation, 1878
Newton 252,425
Clear Creek 249,825
Washington 412,348
Hickory Grove 228,850
Prairie City 194,650
Palo Alto 318,108
Mariposa 218,289
Jasper City, Ind. D. 180,350
Lynn Grove 257,505
Rock Creek 275,590
Richland 244,569
Kellogg 329,564
Des Moines 408,647
Monroe 313,410
Sherman 259,266
Colfax 116,672
Vandalia 31,992
Fairview 423,876
Lynnville, Ind. D 106,860
Poweshiek 275,678
Independence 241,473
Malaka 370,315
Buena Vista 335,941
Elk Creek 356,410
Mound Prairie 276,776
Newton, Ind. D 691,949


TownshipReal and Personal Property Total Tax
Clear Creek $292,320 $10,566.36
Independence 342,065 11,349.12
Malaka 369,635 11,711.97
Hickory Grove 344,885 10,570.11
Rock Creek 286,330 9,724.34
Kellogg 309,790 11,136.50
Newton 427,265 155,274.39
Sherman 304,950 10,441.02
Poweshiek 278,360 9,665.67
Washington 317,125 9,867.62
Mound Prairie 378,435 11,790.91
Palo Alto 367,730 12987.58
Buena Vista 403,465 13,272.24
Richland 327,715 12,260.96
Lynn Grove 372,370 13,078
Elk Creek 371,125 12,780
Fairview 479,320 15,808
Des Moines 414,540 13,196
Mariposa 356,045 11,192
Town or City CorporationReal and Personal Property Total Tax
Monroe 253,235 13,174.53
Jasper City 159,965 9,003.36
Baxter 166,840 9,110.99
Prairie City 230,035 12,160.99
Sully 78,185 4,141.23
Lynnville 54,610 2,910
Mingo 47,555 1,788.79
Greencastle 50,730 1,913.89
Vandalia 32,375 1,568.00
Reasoner 50,330 2,211.12
Newton (City) 2,158,152 120,997.88
Colfax 287,690 30,330.73
Corporations 926,069 34,677.60
Total $11,249,241 $470,662.13

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Transcribed by Ernie Braida in July 2003