This picture has been posted in a larger format than usual. We are hopeful that someone might recognize their ancestor in the line of men standing on the front walk in front of the courthouse. Please contact the county coordinator at this email link, with your suggestions about identity. ~Photo contributed by volunteer, Stephen Tschernach

"I suspect that my great grandfather Walter L. Samson and great granduncle George W. Martin may be two of the gentlemen in the image, placing a possible time frame of about 1911 to 1916.Help with identifying this image is very much appreciated. Thank you." Stephen Tschernach


Established: January 15, 1851

Organized: April 3, 1854

County Seat: Onawa

The name of Monona County (701 square miles) is believed to be of Indian origin, but its exact meaning is not known. The word may mean Peaceful Valley or Beautiful Valley . Some authorities suggest that the county was named for Monona, a town in Clayton County , at the suggestion of Eliphalet Price, Representative from Clayton County in the Third General Assembly. Monona was said to be the name of an Indian maiden who committed suicide by jumping from a high cliff into the Mississippi River , in the belief that her own tribesmen had killed her white lover.

The county's business was first transacted at the Mormon village called Preparation, in Spring Valley Township , where some of the first settlements were made. When Ashton (originally called Bloomfield ) was named the county seat in the fall of 1854, a log house served as the first courthouse. Ashton remained the county seat for only four years, however. On April 5, 1858 , the people voted to move the permanent seat of government to Onawa, platted in the Missouri River bottoms in 1857 by the Monona County Land Company. A total of 229 ballots were cast, 130 of which favored the new location, while 99 wanted the county seat to remain in Ashton. Following this election, country records were removed to Onaway, where a frame courthouse was built during the summer of 1858, at a cost of $7,000.

Attempts were made from 1861 until 1889 to remove the county seat to Belvidere , Arcola, and East Mapleton , but each contest, in turn ended in favor of Onawa. Local citizens then raised the sum of $12,500 for the erection of a new courthouse at Onawa. One of the means used to raise the money was a supper and ball which earned $180. Built in 1891-1892 by S.E. Maxon and Co., of Omaha, this brick Romanesque building, with gabled roof surmounted by a tower, is located on the same site as the previous courthouse. A one-story addition was built on the west side of the courthouse in 1967, and another on the east side in 1973. Construction on a new Law Enforcement Center, just behind the courthouse, was completed in 1974.

Excerpt from: "The Counties and Courthouses of Iowa"

By: LeRoy G. Pratt