I has often been asked by what process those early boodlers built up such a debt of two hundred and thirty thousand dollars against the county. We shall not attempt to make an itemized list of the sundry bills allowed, as that would be too lengthy; indeed, we could not, as without doubt many warrants were issued that were later sued upon that never were made of record. This history must deal with facts and policies and not with mere details or figures. However, to illustrate their methods, we will give a list of the bills allowed at one session of the board of supervisors, namely, the session of September 2, 1861, which would be in the second year:
Hedges & Company, stationery $200.00
I. C. Furber, office rent 300.00
J. H. Cofer, wood furnished offices 500.00
James H. Bosler, wood furnished offices 200.00
John H. Cofer, books furnished offices 300.00
Henry C. Tiffey, transcribing records 300.00
I. C. Furber, digging well for county 150.00
Henry C. Tiffey, making out tax list 150.00
John S. Jenkins, making map of county 200.00
C. E. Hedges, transcribing records 300.00
J. A. Gilbert, superintending swamp lands 500.00
Henry C. Tiffey, office rent 300.00
Archibald Murray, office rent 300.00
Henry C. Tiffey, salary 500.00
I. C. Furber, salary 500.00
John S. Jenkins, surveying roads 700.00
John H. Cofer, salary 50.00
James W. Bosler, making out delinquent tax list 250.00
ArchibaldMurray, building county building 2,000.00
Henry C. Tiffey, for forty acres of land 2,000.00
John H. Jenkins, building bridges 8,000.00
Total $17,500.00


Several curious facts may be observed in connection with the above bills. The county was then nineteen months old only, and with practically no revenue in actual cash. Even in this year 1914, after fifty-one years and final prosperity, and with seventeen thousand people, at no session of outboard will there be allowed bills in such aggregate. Another curious thing is the fact that these bills are practically for even hundreds of dollars. Here are twenty-one large bills, which, in the ordinary course of business, for items such as digging a well, transcribing records, surveying roads, stationery, etc., there would ordinarily be odd cents. Every one of them rounds up with even dollars and most of them with even hundreds. Another interesting item is the bill of Archibald Murray for two thousand dollars for a county building, which is none other than the colossal old log court house, and still, with a two thousand dollar allowance for a building spot, many charges of hundreds of dollars are allowed for office rent. When we add to this also the fact that the whole written record of all that the board did in creating the whole debt, together with all other business, was written on twenty-four sheets of foolscap paper, not even bound, this office rent falls a joke with the rest. Then observe that J. A. Gilbert is allowed seven hundred dollars for superintending swamp lands, and then the fact that in still another meeting of the board they allowed the blessed James W. Bosler a special fee of one thousand dollars for securing to the county these same swamp lands, and then the fact there never were but two hundred and forty acres of swamp land in fact in the county, and then the final act of this board to make a contract with this same Bosler to build a bridge which, of record, they valued at five hundred dollars, and for the same deeded to him fifty thousand acres of what the bunch concluded were or might be swamp lands, and which he sold all over the East for good title lands, it is plain they were cutting and slicing things up with both edges of the knife. We may perhaps also add a smile at the fell swoop in a one-line bill, with no intemization, of eight thousand dollars for bridges, to John S. Jenkins. The name of this same John S. Jenkins appears in hundreds of places in the deeding of these fifty thousand acres of so-called swamp lands, as they were handed down and divided up into parcels among the bunch, as the deed records show. Then also add the little item of even two hundred dollars to this same John S. Jenkins for making a map of the county, which was none other than the map made by these gentry to show purchasers the people they were deluding at the other end of the line also. However, itemization would have been of no avail, as the list on its face shows it to be a straight-out steal anyway. (4)


As none of the bridges were ever heard of afterward, it all seems humorous, when not serious. But all this is but a specimen of what scores of counties in those early times had to endure, only O'Brien county caught more than its share. They labored at more than one session with this precious swamp land. Even back of this board meeting on October 30, 1860, is this dainty and humorous solemn entry by the court relating to these same swamp lands:
"Office of County Judge,
"October 30, 1860.
"The court has this day awarded a contract to Lewis McCoy for selecting the swamp lands of O'Brien county and properly returning same, which work is to be performed during the year 1861, for which he shall receive the sum of two thousand dollars, and, being satisfied that the said McCoy will perform said work, said amount is hereby ordered issued.
"County Judge."
Many other sums were allowed at different times, with this same clause in it, namely. "Being satisfied that said work will be done, the warrant is ordered issued." It seems almost a wonder that they should have even gone to the trouble of such formalities.


We will give one other example of a curious bunch of six bills allowed at a session three years later, May 11, 1864. It would seem, as near as may be determined, the sum of about three thousand dollars had been collected in the treasury on taxes, and it needed to be divided up. At all events the following bills were allowed:

J. L. McFarland, salary county judge $500.00
David Carroll, recorder 500.00
Henry C. Tiffey. treasurer 500.00
James W. Bosler. attorney fees 500.00
Archibald Murray, old account against the county 500.00
William Payne, old account against the county 500.00
Total $3,000.00

We call attention to the fact of the division on various items being not only even hundreds of dollars, but each bill exactly the same. They were


each carrying out the Golden Rule, "to do unto others as they do to you," at least squaring up with each other.


One other oddity in scalping was carried out at the session of the board January 2, 1865. It was during the dark period of the War of the Rebellion. Abraham Lincoln had issued sundry calls for volunteers and bounties for enlistment had been offered over the country by individuals, towns, counties and states. It is all but humorous to see this bunch of gentlemen, mostly from the South, during the war itself, refraining from fighting on their own side, and keeping very quiet up among the jungles of a wild prairie country in a treeless Northwest, exhibiting such patriotism by generously asking the board (which was themselves) to vote a bounty as a commendable duty to their country. The board magnanimously voted the sum of seventeen thousand five hundred dollars bounty.
Then the board proceeded to solemnly and humorously engage a local party as financial agent to sell these bonds. He sold them, as per his report, for twenty cents on the dollar, which report is dated and filed October 17, 1865, several months after the war was over, in fact; but perhaps news was slow in those days. We can give them the benefit of that doubt and proceed with the further humors of this deal. This produced, as we can figure, thirty-five hundred dollars. Then they divided this patriotic pot into three equal parts, thus:

Archibald Murray $1,166.66
William Payne $1,166.67
I. C. Furber $1,166.67
Total: $3,500.00

The record recites that this bounty was paid them, they being credited to O'Brien county as soldiers. Mr. Schee's Army Record fails to enumerate them. But the more humorous thing was that these same worthies were all drawing all sorts of big salaries as county officials at the same time. It will be observed in this instance, however, they did not divide on even hundreds but exact cents, but they they were dealing with each other now. The "divvy" must be fair. It was all simply a series of schemes of diverting the several issues of warrants into the pockets of this bunch of looters. However, they were evidently looking out for one possibility, that in event


they were sued they might have some semblance of an excuse of a consideration, and a soldier's bounty had an appealing sentiment.
Still a further humor had to be added, in that the O'Brien county board, at a later session, awarded the neat sum of one thousand dollars for very valuable services as financial agent in selling these soldier bounty bonds of seventeen thousand five hundred dollars at twenty cents on the dollar, that they, the patriots of O'Brien county, might divide it up among themselves.
As a sort of finis addendum, the board allowed C. C. Smeltzer, an attorney from Fort Dodge, the sum of three thousand dollars for services to the county as legal advisor during the year 1860, which, be it observed, was the first year of the county. We may well stretch our imaginations to conceive what on earth they needed with three thousand dollars in legal advice, when all they needed was a warrant book and a bottle of ink, except that they were dividing things up among them about even. These items will perhaps be sufficient to explain the general plans of these schemers. These schemes took on varying phases of both the serious and humorous.


Hannibal House Waterman was the first white man in the county.
His wife, Hannah H. Waterman, was the first white woman.
Their daughter, Anna Waterman, was the first white child born, May 30, 1857.
Old father James Bicknell preached the first sermon in 1857.
Rev. Seymour Snyder was the first regular preacher in 1862.
Old O'Brien was the first town.
O'Brien was the name of the first township.
Moses Lewis was the first postmaster.
Mrs. Hannah Waterman taught the first school in i860.
A daughter of John H. Cofer taught the second school.
B. F. McCormack was the first Sunday school superintendent.
Archibald Murray filed the first homestead entry.
Daniel W. Inman and Chester W. Inman filed the next following homesteads.
John R. Pumphrey was the first banker.
William Clark Green was the first merchant.
Al Bostwick and R. G. Allen were the first blacksmiths.
Rouse B. Crego ran the first hotel.


Mrs. Roma W. Woods established the first circulating library.
Judge A. H. Hubbard held the first term of court.
Adam Towberman was foreman of the first grand jury.
The Sioux City & St. Paul was the first railroad.
Sheldon was the first railroad town.
Sheldon was the first incorporated town.
A. J. Brock was the first mayor in the county.
The O'Brien Pioneer was the first newspaper published in the county.
R. F. McCormack was the first editor.
Luther E. Head was the first physician.
The brothers, Benjamin and Charles Epperson, the first African homesteaders.


The first records are exceedingly meager and brief. It is almost impossible to determine with certainty the beginnings and endings of terms of officials. In many cases the first record that a certain official has been in office is not of his election, but of some duty performed. The rest must be supplied from memories. We will give first the leading record entries, in most cases the identical words of the record. The record of organization has already been given:
October 20, 1860, J. W. Bosler took the contract to build court house for recorder and treasurer (and the odd provision) "not to be over eighteen feet square."
A temporary office was built for Archibald Murray, county judge, and his bill allowed for same. This was the old log court house.
November 5, 1860, the first county safe was purchased of Bosler & Hedges for treasurer's office.
H. C. Tiffey built an office in November, i860, for the district clerk in connection with the office built by A. Murray for recorder and treasurer.
On December 11, 1860, H. H. Waterman resigned as treasurer and recorder.
John H. Cofer was the first chairman of the board of supervisors.
James W. Bosler followed Waterman as treasurer and recorder.
On January 1, 1861, Amos S. Collins assessed the whole of Waterman township, being then all the county, and was the first assessor.
On January 1, 1861, H. C. Tifrey's bond as clerk of the board was approved.


On June 3, 1861. the first levy was made to build the first school house in the county.
In September, i860, John S. Jenkins made a map of the county, he being the first surveyor.
The records show that James W. Bosler was the first attorney in the county. The county was detached from Woodbury, and C. E. Hedges made copies of the Woodbury records, or so much thereof as pertained to O'Brien county.
Archibald Murray built both the old log court house and the "not over eighteen foot square" court house.
The first tax list was published by Zebeck & Frieney.
John H. Gofer was made chairman of the board of supervisors for 1862. and also was county judge for the term commencing January 1, 1862.
On June 1, 1862, John S. Jenkins resigned as county superintendent and George Hoffman was appointed.
On June 1, 1862, James R. M. Gofer was appointed treasurer and recorder.
On June 1. 1862, George Hoffman was appointed sheriff in place of A. Murray. There is no record of how or when Murray got into the office.
On January 1, 1863, Moses Lewis and Daniel Clark were sworn in as supervisors and H. G. Tiffey as district clerk.
On March 2, 1863, James R. M. Gofer resigned as treasurer and recorder and David Carroll was appointed.
On March 2, 1863, John H. Gofer resigned as judge and John L. McFarland was appointed.
In March, 1864, H. C. Tiffey was clerk of the board of supervisors.
On June 2, 1864, David Garroll resigned as treasurer and recorder and John L. McFarland was appointed.
On September 5. 1864, Moses Lewis dug a well for the court house.
On September 2, 1861, the county bought the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 36, in township 94. range 39 (Old O'Brien), for county purposes.
On March 29, 1861, Judge A. W. Hubbard appointed Samuel Parkhurst, of Cherokee county, Edward Smeltzer, of Clay county, and James Gleason, of Buena Vista county, commissioners to locate the county seat of O'Brien county, and on August 28, 1861, the first two commissioners did so locate same on the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 36, township 94 north, of range 39, being Old O'Brien town, bought of H. C. Tiffey.



The above entries, with others of lesser importance, were kept by H. C. Tiffey in his neat handwriting on about twenty-four pages of large foolscap paper, clinched together with fasteners, but unbound.
This original document was brought up to Primghar in a box of refuse papers found in the office of the clerk of records. It was finally dug out by Warren Walker and Judge A. H. Willits, who was then clerk of courts, and discovered to be the original record of organization and was retained by him until 1880, when it was decided that the auditor's office was the proper place for it. Accordingly, J.L.E. Peck, then auditor of the county, fastened it with fasteners in the front part of Supervisors' Record No. 1. Still later the same auditor recorded the same in full in Supervisors' Record No. 3 by resolution of the board of supervisors, that it might be preserved without question, and certified to its genuineness.
The following are some of the additional record entries up to 1869 and 1870, when the first real settlements were made, and the time when, in justice, the county first deserved to be organized:
On January 2, 1865, Moses Lewis was made chairman, A. Murray was sworn in as treasurer and recorder, Moses Lewis as county judge and H. C. Tiffey as district clerk.
In the latter part of 1865 the record shows that John Moore was county judge and on January 1, 1866, he resigned that office and became district clerk in place of H.C. Tiffey, who resigned that day.
On September 2. 1867, R. B. Crego was appointed supervisor.
In 1867 Moses Lewis was chairman and D. W. Inman and R. B. Crego members.
On June 6, 1868, D. W. Inman was chairman and R. B. Crego a member. During this time Chauncey Chesley was sheriff; A. Murray, county judge; Chester W. Inman, treasurer, and John Moore, clerk of the courts.
On November 28, 1868, the county offices were repaired for school in that winter. This same month John Moore resigned as district clerk and A. Murray was appointed in his place.
On January 1, 1869, D. W. Inman was chairman and R. B. Crego and William II. Baker members. On March 13, 1869, Joseph S. Stratton was appointed district clerk. On September 6, 1869, the court house was ordered to be moved to the center of the court house square.
On September 24, 1869, D. W. Inman resigned as chairman and William H. Baker was elected in his place.


On January 1, 1870, the new officers qualified: John W. Kelly, chairman, and H. H. Waterman and Obediah Higbee, members; Samuel Hubbard, sheriff; R. B. Crego, treasurer, and John R. Pumphrey, deputy treasurer; Archibald Murray, as county auditor, and J. F. Schofield, as surveyor. It will be observed that at this date, under the then new law, the office of county auditor was created and some of the duties exercised bv the county judge passed to the district court and the office of county judge abolished.
On January 25, 1870, John H. Schofield resigned as county superintendent and Stephen Harris was appointed.
In 1870 a new court house was built by J. G. Parker and on July 20, 1870, it was accepted.
A ferry boat was ordered built March 22, 1870, to cross the Little Sioux, under county supervision, near H. H. Waterman's residence.
On October 24, 1870. Samuel B. Hurlburt resigned as sheriff, and George McOmber was appointed. On January 1, 1871, B. F. McCormack was chairman and C. W. Inman and T. J. Fields, members; McAllen Green, recorder; Stephen Harris, clerk of courts, and John R. Pumphrey, deputy.
On February 25, 1871, the treasurer's office was declared vacant, and the sheriff ordered to take possession of the office. John R. Pumphrey was appointed to fill the vacancy. A suit was ordered against Rouse B. Crego, treasurer, in May term, 1871, and bond of Pumphrey accepted February 27th, and the office delivered over to him on that day. On March 14, 1871, R. B. Crego was ordered to appear before the board to make settlement.


We have already referred to the old county debt. Indeed the question loomed up in the very manner of the county's organization. The mere statement that it was organized with seven votes carried with it a sinister motive. Inasmuch as this matter troubled our people seriously for forty years, we cannot drop the subject without detailing how our people disposed of its various vexed questions. Let us keep in mind the fact, however, that in the end O'Brien county paid it out in full. They left no questions of credit on the county.
But O'Brien county has not been alone in having dark spots in her earlier periods. She now has her prosperities, but has passed through her adversities. In this, our prosperous period, when we need a public building, we find surplus funds ample to build it without even an issue of bonds or special levy being necessary. As for instance, in this year of 1913 the


county is building a home for the poor and unfortunate, costing twenty-five thousand dollars, with the full amount on hand in the treasury, without even a levy necessary. When we see this done so easily, we, in looking backward, may wonder how such a debt was created. But as portions of that debt of two hundred and thirty thousand dollars were even handed down to as late as the year 1908, when the last bond was paid, and as the people passed through many phases of argument during all these years, we will give the matter notice. Our debt was often exaggerated to several times the above amount. But when we realize that this large debt from 1860 to 1881 bore ten per cent., and that from 1881 to 1886 it bore seven per cent, and that from 1886 at five per cent, interest, and still later only four and one-half per cent, the county deserves no extended slams and need ask for no pity, for such was its vitality, even in those years, to so soon rally as to recommend itself to eastern financiers at four and one-half per cent, which proves the rockbottom value of the county. It was almost as good as a national bond. The county paid thirty thousand dollars on it in 1880 and about ten thousand dollars and more at times each year thereafter.
Macaulay, the historian, claimed and proved that the public debt of England was a public blessing. In one sense this has been probably true in O'Brien county. It has caused a vigilance and watchfulness on the part of public officials as to expenses and kept the need of economy prominently before the people. We have already made note of several causes. The county was organized before it had self government. It was born too soon. Its general elections in 1861 and 1862 only had seventeen and nineteen votes. A set of men from abroad, who did not in fact become its permanent citizens and had no such intentions, did the organizing. The real citizens, so few in number, were busy opening up their farms and were outvoted.


It was not merely the money debt to be paid that this Bosler-Cofer organization handed down to our people. It handed down its attendant dregs. The fact that for nineteen years, from i860 to 1879, county warrants sold on the market, both inside the county as well as to the speculator, at twenty-five to forty cents on the dollar, caused bad results in many ways. Of necessity it could not be healthy that its citizenship for so long speculated off of itself, so to speak. Discounting its own revenues made a bad atmosphere. It could not be gotten rid of at once. Its citizens could not get away from its conditions. These bad situations reached not only into county


matters, but to its townships and school districts, and entered into individual business disasters. They all got likewise in debt and tangled and intertwined in many ways. Defalcations were numerous both in county and townships, as well as school treasurers.
One actual occurrence will be cited as a sample. One school treasurer became short one thousand one hundred and two dollars. It is one of the duties of that office to make an annual report to the county superintendent, and that official a like report of the whole county school finances to the state authorities. The school treasurer's report plainly showed a shortage. The report was referred back. The school treasurer could not make it good. The bondsmen did not want to make it up. They were called in. A committee was appointed to examine same. This committee was friendly to the bondsmen. This committee finally hit on the scheme of making a report, and giving the school 'treasurer credit for the sum short by this simple entry, "By error, $1,102." As any one can see, that did not put up the money. It went through, however, but that school treasurer is still short that amount of money. "By error" would not make good, when there was no error. He had simply spent the money. A member of that committee in later years was asked in presence of the writer how under the sun he could ever make that report. He replied that they had to make it "add up," and the bondsmen couldn't afford to pay it. This is cited to show the then environments. Both county, township and school affairs were chaotic, no real settlements, and the records indefinite and all too brief. We have shown that the whole record before the board of supervisors from 1860 to 1865 was, in fact, kept on twenty-four pages of foolscap paper, and yet so much bad work was done.
For many of those years Clark Green's store was the only store in the county, and Pumphrey's the only bank. The pitiful appeals of the "grasshoppered" homesteaders for credit and groceries and clothing became too strong. It took thousands of dollars to carry such a situation. Clark Green was too honest and too generous and had too much heart to withstand such appeals. He, in fact, dished out his groceries and merchandise right and left. These matters all connected themselves too closely with the public funds, the store, Pumphrey's bank and the county funds. Both Pumphrey's bank, the store and the county officials were all pressed to the limit for loans and favors. Clark Green and his store broke up in 1879 and he made an assignment for the benefit of his creditors. He and John R. Pumphrey had for years been in partnership. Four years later John R. Pumphrey himself, with his store there, went to the wall at Sanborn. The writer once heard a


substantial farmer from Grant township get it off in the court house thus:
"These public funds are curious things. Part of the time John Pumphrey has them, part of the time B. F. McCormack has them, part of the time the store has them, and part of the time they are in the county treasury."
In fact, John Pumphrey's bank, the only one in the county up to 1874, was nothing more than a clearing house for the speculations on county warrants and bonds and school warrants. There was no well defined code of honor between public funds and private ownership. Its citizenship became too much imbued with the idea that they were all entitled to a share. There was no bank capital. The public funds simply were moved through the bank. The funds were loaned to individuals and a profit made. The common pasturage idea engrafted onto things by the Bosler-Cofer outfit did not scon lose its force. Indeed, the further fact existed that at no time in the whole of Mr. Pumphrey's banking career, from 1869 to 1881, could he ever have made fully good the public funds. It probably was not wholly his fault. The Boslers and Gofers were doing the dictation work. He followed suit. In fact, there was never a time when he was worth a single net dollar and in later years could not have paid to exceed fifty cents on the dollar had it all been called at any one time. Each new lot of money coming into the treasury simply filled the place of that which had just been paid out. No wonder public officials had their troubles. The very bank itself through which the public funds were moving was in an utterly chaotic condition. When once thus reduced in credit, the county warrants to twenty-five cents on the dollar, even good first-class financial management would have had a hard struggle, as it in fact did even as late as 1879, when the county and its board of supervisors succeeded in placing the county on a cash basis, as will be shown elsewhere. Thus, for example, to buy legitimately a record book, needed as a necessity for the county and worth but ten dollars, required a county warrant to be issued for forty dollars. Speculation in warrants became much of a business, very much so by capitalists from Des Moines and Sioux City and other places in the East, who saw the final good qualities of the county and that it ultimately would cash out, just as the county has in fact been doing and have now finished up since 1879. Even the later legitimate citizens were almost compelled to participate in the handling and speculation on these warrants and indebtedness. While at the present stage of the county's prosperity this would not be justifiable, yet in these years it could not be escaped from. These speculators of necessity had to allow real citizens to hold the offices, but it took a long time to get the con-


trol or majority. These honest citizens could not in the first years have retrieved the situation and those sharpers held on as long as they could.
During the excited discussions of the years from 1875 to 1881 over these debt questions, much censure has been heaped upon the heads of many real citizens and sundry of the officers who assumed the duties of officials. More or less was deserved, yet the impartial critic must mitigate to quite an extent these censures on many of those officials. The real citizens and officials made but a small part of the money. The big money was fleeced out in the first five years, during the Bosler-Cofer ascendency. Much of the big speculation was made by such people as Weare & Allison, of Sioux City; Polk & Hubbell, of Des Moines, and a Mr. Miller, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The writer saw this man Miller several times when he was here in his efforts to clinch the bonds and judgments he held. He was a small-sized man, a determined fighter and business all over. He had laid out forty acres right in the heart of Ann Arbor and would never let it be lotted up, but held it as a fine residence property. He made much of this money out of the sundry new counties in this section of country.


It is hard to distinguish among the early angels between James W. Bosler, John H. Cofer, Henry C. Tiffey. Charles C. Smeltzer, I.C. Furber, Archibald Murray or John S. Jenkins. The latter first surveyed the roads, at least on paper, and had bills practically as follows for surveying:

Road from county seat. "O'Brien to Plymouth county line" $200.00
Road from "county seat in direction of Spirit Lake" 200.00
Road from "county seat in direction of Spirit Lake (second division)" 200.00
Road from "county seat in direction of Cherokee" 200.00
Road from "county seat to Clay county" 200.00

Then he followed this all up very industriously with five charges of $2,000 each for bridges on each of these roads. D. A. W. Perkins, in his history, gives it as four items of $2,000 each, but, on reading it closely, it is in fact five, because he divided the roads in the direction of Spirit Lake first in bridges Numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5, at $2,000,
and then a second whack of bridges Numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9 on road to Spirit Lake, at $2,000;
then followed with bridges Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 to Cherokee, with another $2,000,
and likewise to Plymouth, Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, with $2,000;
then Numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9, $2,000, making in all five whacks, or ten thousand dollars.


Then he modestly puts in a bill of only two hundred dollars for making the county map of same. This same pestiferous individual appears among the swamp land deals and deeds with Bosler and Cofer. They were all indeed Swamp Angels to O'Brien county. Even in later years Chester Inman is allowed six thousand dollars for one single bridge.


As illustrating how slow the county was in recovering from even the spirit of the bad work of earlier years, we mention the quite elaborate contract entered into January 8, 1872, between B. F. McCormack and C. W. Inman, then sole members on the board and an attorney, whereby the board agreed to give him five thousand dollars in warrants paid in advance, and twenty per cent, of all collections or results from all swamp lands secured to the county, and to include all scrip that the county might be otherwise entitled to in lieu of lands. The curious thing about it was that the five thousand dollars was the only result so far as is known. Another curious item was that the auditor, in issuing same, made it in ten five hundred dollar warrants, which smacked of the prevalent custom of the boys dividing up on the square with one another. And this was all done after Bosler, Cofer & Company were gone. It has been thought by some that this attorney in fact took that contract to Washington and collected some scrip that the county was entitled to where it got no real swamp lands, as it never did. But, at all events, it was all outlay so far as the county was concerned.
But this was not the whole of this little chapter about this single item on swamp lands. On September 5th of the same year, 1872, the county, by its board, made another very serious contract—indeed, it is quite lengthy— with one T.J. Ross, president of the Iowa & Dakota Railroad, whereby O'Brien county should sell and transfer to said company all lands it might receive of swamp lands in the future, including scrip to which it might be entitled, one-half at once when grading was done or started and the balance later. It can thus be seen that it was not intended that the county should receive much returns from swamp lands. And this, too, as late as 1872.


This iron bridge was another specimen of how to farm a good thing when it can be done. The board had expended considerable sums in a ferry on the Little Sioux. Later on they let a contract for a wooden bridge, at


quite a large cost. The bridge was partly under way, with the lumber on the ground and the main heavy frames up, when a tremendous freshet in the spring swept it all away. It had been so arranged, however, that the full price of this structure was paid, notwithstanding the thing was not completed. Then the iron bridge was undertaken. It was curious that it was let in sections. The one big span in center, with piers, was called an improved patent tubular arch bridge, eighty-one feet long, at a cost of four thousand dollars, to be completed December 15, 1872, and to be able to sustain two thousand pounds to the lineal foot. On the same day a contract was let to Charles Foster, of Cherokee, to build five sections or approaches, each sixteen feet in length, or eighty feet of approaches, at a cost of one thousand dollars. Later still "additional approaches" were added, until the total length was one hundred and ninety-three feet. Still later, ice breakers and sundry items of all kinds were needed. It was often alleged in later years that this iron bridge cost the county in grand total up to the date it washed out, in 1897, the total of about fifteen thousand dollars. It was claimed that they kept up this iron bridge improvement to keep out of sight other bad work.


It was unfortunately the law that a county could be sued in any county in the state in the state courts. The county was annoyed exceedingly by these small suits, which were apparently brought to wear out the county and at the same time get them into judgment and then, if the county put up a fight, simply withdraw and later bring suit somewhere else. The county did make some efforts in the direction, but in the end was worsted. For instance, on November n, 1872, the county was sued down in Waterloo, Black Hawk county, on some old warrants numbered from 209 to 231, which can be seen were among the very first warrants issued, and to Henry C. Tiffey, John Moore and William Paine. The suit was in name of Alonzo Rollins, for eight thousand eight hundred and thirty dollars. Several attorneys were employed at different times as vexatious continuances were had. It cost the county auditor one hundred and fifty dollars, in warrants, to get down and back. As a round up, this one suit cost three items of attorney's fees, one for six hundred dollars, one for one thousand five hundred dollars, and a third for two thousand eight hundred dollars, and judgment was rendered and the county beaten besides. This was not very encouraging in defeating: debts. Allegations were made that attorneys for the county and the holders


of the warrants were in partnership in these deals, but of that no one will ever know. It was not until 1878 that the citizens really got up "on their ear" and determined to get both sides of these impudent expenses stopped.


It was not alone on fraudulent county warrants issued for unnecessary bridges, that the Bosler-Cofer-Carey crowd taxed their ingenuity. They exploited various, fields. The swamp land graft was one of those slippery schemes adopted. As a matter of fact, O'Brien county had only about two hundred and forty acres of actual swamp land. It is also true that swamp land must first be duly surveyed by the United States as such, and appraised, and duly certified to be swamp lands before a county can claim a title. The swamp lands have been held for use of the counties in which located. But this fact did not deter the frisky and unscrupulous Bosler crowd. This same James W. Bosler, who gained quite a national reputation with Senator Dorsey in the "Star Route frauds," conceived the idea that he must have swamp lands in O'Brien county, whether certified or not. He could rely on the gullibility of the unwary, who would not know those facts, to gather in his dupes. He selected those lands that would seem to come the nearest to the swamp land idea, fifty thousand acres. He then entered into a very elaborate contract with the board of supervisors of O'Brien county, which board was none other than a part of the same crowd (in other transactions he himself was a member of the board and Cofer the contractor) and controlled by him, in reality making a contract with himself, wherein he agreed to build a small bridge, and in consideration therefor the county of O'Brien, in its sovereign and official capacity, with the seal of the county attached, should deed to him this fifty thousand acres of land. He then, to constitute himself a gentleman, in a gentleman's contract, deeded part of this land to John H. Cofer and part to Joseph Carey, and other tracts to the others of this sacred few, and the land was thus deeded to and fro. Then an abstract of title was made up, all red inked in impressive style. This would show these several deeds on the tracts, in eighties or quarters, as they desired to sell them. The title would, at least prima facie, appear to come from a responsible source. These abstracts of title were then taken to show to the Eastern dupes, and sold all over the country as full-grown titled land. The deed, with a seal of the county thereon, gave it prestige. These duped people recorded their deeds. Of course, later on the United States in regular course issued its patents to the rightful homesteader, or rightful purchaser


from the United States. These Bosler-Cofer-Carey deeds have continued to this day on all these lands to hamper real owners in trying to sell or to make loans thereon. However, the Eastern loan companies now generally understand it and pay no attention to them. Unfortunately, however, these bogus deeds appear on every genuine abstract of title on lands named. Not one of the bogus title owners ever came into court to actually claim title or ever took possession. The fraud was too patent as soon as it was looked up by parties. But this was not the whole of the graft. These same gentry, Bosier, Cofer & Company, continued so long in control of the records and received payments for taxes, that they would receive the tax money from both the bogus title man and the honest title man and enter one on the records and pocket the money from the other. Such things and doings, however, have often placed our county in a false light and such matters have also been often exaggerated.

O'Brien County Iowa Genealogy - The IAGenWeb Project