Early History in Washington County

Some Early First facts - Listed by date

1839:    Washington city was Founded in 1839 - Facts About Early History of Town (Winter Issue 2010 WCGS Newsletter.) "The following article was from a small book on our shelves in the Genealogy room."

With steps being taken by residents of the city of Washington to improve and beautify the county seat of Washington County thru the formation of the Better - Washington Club it is only right that more be known of the history of the city and its development. Of the many beautiful cities in Iowa, none of them considering its size, presents a neater appearance than Washington.

Its site was chosen by the commissioners appointed for that purpose as the seat of justice of Washington County, Iowa, in June 1839.  The original town site was composed of the southwest corner of section 17, township 75, range 7 and was entered by Richard Moore and Simon P. Teeple in October 1839. The first settlement made on the present site of the city was by Joseph Adams, who came from Ohio and located her on the 17th of October 1839.  He purchased two lots located southeast of the public square on the corner of Iowa and Jefferson streets and at once commenced the erection of a blacksmith shop and residence. both buildings were of log. Daniel Powers built the second house shortly afterward. This building was a double log house one and a half stories high with two large, old fashioned chimneys. There were two large rooms below, and two above, reached by a common ladder,  The building was erected for a tavern and as used as such for some years.

In 1849 there were twelve families residing in Washington. Washington having been selected as the county seat, it was expected that it would soon assume metropolitan proportions. A blacksmith shop having already been established and a tavern erected, it became necessary that the young village should have a store; consequently John Daugherty, early in 1840, established himself in business as a general merchant.  He was soon followed by Almon Moore, who erected a building and also opened a stock of general merchandise.  A post office soon after established, a court house built and court held therein, and citizens of Washington now looked forward to an era of prosperity.  Since that time merchants and laymen have been of a very progressive type, have kept their eyes open for institutions and enterprises that would be of a definite value in the county and have built up a feeling of goodwill among the Washington County family that has been a subject of comment in many circles.

The first physician to settle here was Dr; Geo. H. Stone. He was said to have been a gruff, but kindhearted man, and a thoroughly educated physician and surgeon.

The town grew steadily and in 1852 the first steps were taken for the incorporation.  On the 22nd of May of that year an election was held at the courthouse for or against incorporating the town, which resulted in favor of incorporation.  D. L. Parker, William H. Jenkins and Samuel Miller were selected to prepare charter and to file the same in the office of the county judge. An election was held on the adoption of the charter prepared by those gentlemen, which resulted in the adoption, but for some reason it was afterward revoked, and the town reverted back to an unincorporated village. in 1855 steps were taken again toward the incorporation of the place. Officers were named with A. J. Disney, mayor. Owing to some defects in the steps taken in the municipal government was considered illegal and worshiped and once more became an incorporated village.

A third effort was made and approved by Gen. assembly of the state in 1857. The boat taken in Washington for adoption of the charter was 127 for and two against. Officers were again elected, with a capital S. P. Young, mayor. On account of insufficient notice the election the charter of the city was he declared in all employed by the district court. The case was appealed and the decision was affirmed. For the third time worshiped and had been unable to secure a charter.

In 1858 another attempt was made, but too many people in the city was opposed to it and it was not until the winner of 1863-64 that one more effort was made curd incorporation. A petition signed by 193 citizens was filed. The petition was heard and approved on 29 September 1864. The Mayor recorder and five trustees were elected. They were Ralph Dewey, Mayor; capital L. Capital S. Sherman, recorder; James Dawson, K. W. Cholot, B. W. Andrews, Joseph R. Lewis and William Wilson Jr., Trustees.

As the Town & Country grew in population and wealth various lines of business were established. In the spring of 1857 there was a population of 2000, with five churches and two in process of erection, for hotels, nine dry goods stores, to clothing stores, to hardware stores, two banks, three stove and tin ware establishments, or drug stores, one bookstore, seven grocery stores, one bakery, one millinery, for blacksmith shops, one sash and door factory, three wagon makers, to boot and shoe stores, three furniture stores, three cabinet shops, one boiler factory, one flouring mill, two tailors, eight or 10 ministers, six or seven lawyers, and eight physicians. Washington was becoming a city worth recognition and held that position ever since.

In the summer of 1840 the first school in Washington was taught by Ms. Ashley. The school house was walled and situated in the southwest part of town. Salaries from then on range from $2-$15 a month.

The religious and moral welfare of the city has never let the been neglected and probably no town of its size has a larger church membership or greater average attendance each Sunday; the United Presbyterian Church is the oldest organization in the city. It was organized in its first building erected in 1844. A Washington YMCA was organized May 17, 1877 with G. B. Townsend, Secretary N. W. Woodford president.

For years the city was without a fire department, trusting in the volunteer help of the citizens including the fire department and a hand engine, hose cart, hooks and ladders, were ordered and the department organized.

In the fall of 1858 a company of militia was organized which was given the name of the Washington Light Guards, with G. W. Teas, Captain and A. L. Thompson, first lieutenant. In 1859 H. R. Cowles was elected Captain. At the first call in 1861 for 75,000 men, the company volunteered for the great war of the rebellion, but was too late to be accepted and formed the nucleus of Company H second Iowa volunteer infantry. The citizens of Washington are proud of the war record of the original members of the Washington Light Guards they did their duty to the government faithfully and well.