The History of Keokuk County, Iowa
DES MOINES: UNION HISTORICAL COMPANY.
1880.

OLD RECORDS.

The early official records of Keokuk county, while they are meagre, yet some of them show great care in keeping, while in some cases the spelling and punctuation and penmanship are curiosities to behold, yet it must be borne in mind that they only inaugurated the "spelling reform,"which is now becoming such a mania. Few of the old records have been copied, and yet there are some of the books in a good state of preservation and the writing is as legible as the day that the entries were first made. The first proceedings of the county commissioners are as legible as when they were first written down, in April, 1844. The first commissioner's clerk, Edom Shugart, was a good penman, and evidently a fair scholar, as the writing is very legible, the spelling good, and very few examples of false syntax are visible in the construction of the sentences.

The first district court record is particularly well preserved. Thanks to the thirty-dollar appropriation made for books by the first commissioners' court, these records were placed in a volume which up to the present time has withstood the ravages of rats and the tooth of time. Mr. James, the first clerk of court, was a good penman, a scholar of more than ordinary ability and possessed of all the qualifications requisite to this position. He was careful, industrious and reliable; although it has been thirty-five years since these records were made, they now compare favorably with the best records of recent date. When we recollect that at first the character of the books and quality of paper was inferior; that the county clerk attended to all the work of the office without the aid of a deputy, and owing to his meagre salary was compelled to spend a large portion of his time earning a living as a farm hand, and further, that for many years there was no suitable place to keep, these, records,, the fact appears that the county must have been most fortunate in the selection of its first public officials.

The original tax levies and tax sales are perhaps the most faulty, as the file is incomplete and some of them in existence are so badly rat-eaten and faded that they, are illegible; some of them are also faulty in that they do not bear the date of the, levy or the sale. These records are as varied as Joseph's coat, and it is hard to tell, in some cases just whose work it was and when done.

But however disappointing to the, historian, the old record has its virtues and has many strange and often amusing features. Those who wrote it did not think, perhaps, that they were making history, but the smallest incidents of that early day have now become of interest.

They were kept on foolscap paper, sewed together in the form of a book and covered with the coarsest kind of brown wrapping-paper. They are ancient and faded little volumes and afford a remarkable contrast to the elaborate and carefully kept records of the present day. They exist now only as curiosities, their usefulness having long since departed.

The bond of the first treasurer of the county was fixed at two thousand dollars, and the first allowance which the commissioners made as compensation for their own services was the sum of $7.50 each.

The following order explains itself:

"Ordered, that the eagle side of an eagle ten cent piece, American coin, be adopted as the temporary seal of the board of commissioners of said county until an official seal shall be provided by said board."

L. J. Smith, Charles E. Woodward and J. B. Whisler were the first men authorized by the board to keep a grocery for the sale of intoxicating liquors. The license were issued at the October term, 1845, to run for one year, and the cost of the license was twenty-five dollars. The next year Martin Grimsley and Jacob Wimer were licensed to keep groceries, for which they each paid twenty-five dollars. It must not be supposed, however, that these were the only places where intoxicating liquors could be obtained, as the records of the district court for those years show that numerous persons were indicted for selling liquor without license.

In these days there were as yet no bridges, and it became necessary for the convenience of the settlers, that ferries be maintained at certain points along the rivers. This matter was taken charge of and prices regulated by the county board. The first record bearing on this matter runs as follows:

"Ordered by the board, that John W. Snelson be authorized to keep a skiff or canoe ferry across the north fork of Skunk river in section No. 13 in township No. 75 north, range No. 12 west, upon the said Snelson presenting to the clerk of the board the treasurer's receipt for the sum of two dollars therefor for the term of one year.

"Ordered by the board, that the rates of ferriage to be charged by said Snelson be six and one-fourth cents for each footman.

"Ordered by the board, that George W. Hayes be authorized to keep a skiff or canoe ferry across the south fork of Skunk river in section No. 4, township No. 74 north, range 12 west, upon the said Hayes presenting to the clerk of the board the treasurer's receipt for the sum of two dollars as a tax therefor for the term of one year.

"Ordered by the board, that the said Hayes be authorized to charge as the rates of ferriage the sum of six and one-fourth cents for each footman."

In the early settlement of the country farmers were much annoyed by the depredations of wild animals. Wolves especially were troublesome. In order to raise sheep or hogs it was necessary to keep them enclosed in a secure building, and even then when the careful farmer had secured his stock to the best of his ability, these noxious animals would often succeed in making their way into the stock-pens and devour the inmates. Several organized movements were set on foot to exterminate the wolves, but in order to make the riddance permanent and effectual, the necessity became apparent for some special inducement in the way of compensation for each wolf killed. It was therefore ordered by the board of commissioners as follows:

"Ordered by the board that a reward of twenty-five cents be allowed to any person who shall kill any prairie-wolf, not exceeding six months old, in the county of Keokuk, Iowa Territory, according to law.

"Ordered by the board that a reward of fifty cents be allowed to any person who shall kill any prairie-wolf, over six months old, in the county of Keokuk, Territory of Iowa.

"Ordered by the board that a reward of fifty cents be allowed to any person who shall kill any large gray or black wolf, not exceeding six months old, in the county of Keokuk, Territory of Iowa, according to law.

"Ordered by the board that a reward of one dollar be paid to any person who shall kill any large gray or black wolf, over six months old, in the county of Keokuk, Territory of Iowa, according to law."

In this way hundreds of dollars were paid out of the county fund to individuals who assisted in the extermination of these pests. Probably no money expended by the commissioners proved to be as good an investment.

Transcribed by Pat Wahl. Thank you, Pat!

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