Winnebago County, IA
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In the spring of 1917 three score and two years had passed since Thomas Bearse, George W. Thomas and William Gilbert “pitched their tents” in Winnebago County.  These three men and their families were the first white people to become actual residents of the county.  For a few years the settlement made slow progress, but the work of developing the county's resources has gone steadily forward from that day to the present.  The United States census for 1910 shows only seven counties in the state having a smaller population than Winnebago.  But it should be borne in mind that when the first settlers came to this county Iowa had fifty-one counties with a population of over three thousand each; that ten of these counties had a population of ten thousand or more, and that nine others were close to the ten thousand mark.

The first settlements in Winnebago County were far out on the frontier and nearly a quarter of a century elapsed before they were brought into communication with the rest of the state by a railroad.  Yet in spite of all these disadvantages the growth of the county has been of the most encouraging nature.  Three of the older counties of the state—Davis, Henry and Van Buren—showed a smaller population in 1910 than they did in 1860, while practically all the new counties of Northwestern Iowa have made a substantial increase.  The growth of population in Winnebago, as shown by the United States census since 1860, the first official census taken after the county was organized, is shown in the following table:

1915 (StateCensus)

By a comparison of these figures it will be seen that, notwithstanding the Civil war and the Indian troubles in Minnesota and on the Iowa frontier, the greatest proportionate increase during any decade was between the years 1860 and 1870, when it was over 900 per cent.  From 1870 to 1880 it was over 300 per cent.  The next ten years witnessed a slackening in the growth of population, but between 1890 and 1900 there was a more substantial increase.  The census of 1910 shows a loss of 811 during the preceding ten years.  Part of this decrease may be accounted for by errors made in taking the enumeration, but it is quite probably that more of it may be accounted for by the opening of new lands in other parts of the country which presented opportunities to men of moderate means to acquire farms and homes with a smaller investment of capital.

The distribution of the inhabitants over the county, as shown by the state census of 1915, is given in the following table by townships and incorporated towns.  Forest City and the other incorporated towns are included in the townships in which they are located, except in the case of Norway township, from which that portion of Scarville located in the township is left out, the entire population of that town being included in Logan Township.


Mount Vallely
Total for the county


Buffalo Center
Forest City
Lake Mills
Total living in towns

Deducting the town population from the total for the county leaves 7,895 people engaged in farming. The increase in wealth has been even greater than that of the population.  The state census for 1905 gives the assessed valuation of the property of the county at $2,996,868, and that of 1915 shows an assessment of $4,975,984, exclusive of money and credits, which amounted to $1,285,040 more.  While the population increased between 1905 and 1915 a little less than 13 per cent, the valuation of property increased nearly 100 per cent.  Statistics relating to the industries show that more capital has been invested; the values of farm lands and of farm products have greatly appreciated; more money has been expended in recent years for education and public improvements, and in 1916 the bank deposits were the largest of any year in the county's history.


Three constitutional conventions have been held in the State of Iowa, but in two of them Winnebago County was not represented.  A history of the first two conventions is given in Chapter II  At the time Iowa was admitted in 1846, all the northwestern part of the state was “unorganized territory,” and Winnebago County was not created until five years later.  The third constitutional convention met at Iowa City on January 19, 1857, and finished its labors on the 5th of the following March.  Winnebago County had not yet been organized, as was the case of a number of the counties created in 1851.  The thirty-fourth delegate district was composed of the counties of Bancroft, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Floyd, Hancock, Howard, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago and Worth, and was represented in the convention by John T. Clark.


The following table gives the vote for President and Vice President of the United States in every election since the county was organized, with the exception of 1860, the election returns for that year having been among the records that were destroyed by fire. It is known, however, that Lincoln and Hamlin, the republican candidates received a majority of the votes. As Winnebago has always been a republican county, the names of the candidates of that party come first in every instance:

Lincoln and Johnson
McClellan and Pendleton
Grant and Colfax
Seymour and Blair
Grant and Wilson
Greeley and Brown
Hayes and Wheeler
Tilden and Hendricks
Garfield and Arthur
Hancock and English
Blaine and Logan
Cleveland and Hendricks
Harrison and Morton
Cleveland and Thurman
Harrison and Reid
Cleveland and Stevenson
McKinley and Hobart
Bryan and Sewall
McKinley and Roosevelt
Bryan and Stevenson
Roosevelt and Fairbanks
Parker and Davis
Taft and Sherman
Bryan and Kern
Taft and Sherman
Wilson and Marshall
Roosevelt and Johnson (Progressive)
Hughes and Fairbanks
Wilson and Marshall

The “third party” movement has never gained much strength in Winnebago.  In 1880 Gen, James B. Weaver, the greenback candidate, received 34 votes; in 1892 the populist party polled 157 votes and the prohibition party 31; in 1900 there were 52 votes classed as “scattering;” in 1912 there were 142 socialist and 132 prohibition votes cast, but in 1916 the socialist vote had dwindled to 23 and the prohibition vote to 5.


The following list of county officials since the county was organized in 1857 has been compiled from the public records.  It is believed to be as correct as such a list can be made and shows who have been entrusted with the public business of Winnebago County.  The list also gives the year in which each officer was elected or entered upon the discharge of his duties.  Most of the time the officers were elected for terms of two years.  Where a period of several years elapsed between the election of any officer and that of his successor one or more reelections are indicated.  A list of the judges of the District Court and county attorneys is given in the chapter on the Bench and Bar.

Clerks of Court—Benjamin F. Denslow, 1857; A. K. Curtis, 1860; E. D. Hinman, 1862; Eugene Secor, 1868; W. 0. Hanson, 1876; Simon Sogard, 1884; Gilbert S. Gilbertson, 1888; L. A. Jensen, 1896; J. H. Anderson, 1904; James B. Anderson, 1912 (still in office at the beginning of 1917).

Recorders—Charles H. Day, 1857; Philip Tennis, 1859 (failed to qualify and Mr. Day held over until 1861, when he was again elected for a full term); David Secor, 1863; J. P. Gardner, 1864; H. S. Botsford, 1866; Nelson K. Landru, 1868; E. L. Stillson, 1872; John Law, 1876; O. T. Severs, 1880; Ole S. Olson, 1886; T. G. Tweed, 1892; Henry Osmundson, 1896; Henry S, Johnson, 1900; J. H. Holmsen, 1906; J, O. Bergfald, 1910 (now serving his fourth term).

Auditors—Prior to 1869 the duties of county auditor were performed by the county judge or the clerk of the court.  Since 1869 the following have held the office:  Hiram K. Landru, 1869; Eugene Secor, 1875; Charles Isaacs, 1879; I. J. Kessey, 1887; John Isaacson, 1894; M. C. Halvorsen, 1896; L. A. Hauge, 1902; L. J. Nelson, 1906; C. K. Nelson, 1912.

Treasurers—The duties of treasurer and recorder were combined until 1864, when the office of recorder was established and J. P. Gardner was elected recorder.  The treasurers since 1864 have been: David Secor, 1865; Robert Clark, 1867; Mikkel Peterson, 1877; B. A. Plumer [sic], 1881; W. 0. Hanson, 1885; S. H. Larson, 1891; J. G. Ostby, 1897; A. J. Johnson, 1903; W. S. Wadsworth, 1906; L J. Kessey, 1914.

Sheriffs—John S. Blowers, 1857; M. P. Goodell, 1861; A. P. Harper, 1863; Charles Lutz, 1865; H. K. Landru, 1867; Peter Lewis, 1869; Jacob H. Twito, 1877; W. S. Wadsworth, 1887; M. C. Wheeler, 1891; C. J. Anderson, 1897; Ole Osmundson, 1906; J. H. Revell, 1910 (now serving his fourth term).  Milton P. Goodell, who was elected sheriff in 1861, resigned soon after taking office to enter the army and John Maben was appointed to fill the vacancy.

Surveyors—C. W. Scott, 1857; Augustus Oulman, 1861; J. H. T. Ambrose, 1863; Augustus Oulman, 1865; J. H. T. Ambrose, 1869; W. C. Hayward, 1871 (resigned and W. A. Burnap appointed to the vacancy); O. T. Severs, 1873; J. H. T. Ambrose, 1875; Augustus Oulman, 1877 (resigned and J. H. T. Ambrose appointed to the vacancy); J. H. T. Ambrose, 1879; L. T. Thompson, 1883; J. H. T. Ambrose, 1887; L. T. Thompson, 1891; Augustus Oulman, 1895 ; J. H. T. Ambrose, 1896 (Oulman resigned); O. G. Rislow, 1910.

Coroners—Philip Tennis, 1858; Thomas Bearse, 1860; Darious Bray, 1863; G. P. Smith, 1867; D. C. Hayes, 1869; G. P. Smith, 1871; P. C. Jones, 1873; V. A. Jones, 1875; J. M. Hull, 1877; Y. G. Tweed, 1879; J. H. Brakke, 1881; C. E. Keeler, 1883; Eugene Secor, 1885; C. E. Keeler, 1887; J. H. McKay, 1895; G. M. Lee, 1897; W. H. Jones, 1901; O. A. Hansen, 1903; G. M. Lee, 1910; H. F. Thompson, 1912.

County Superintendents—C. W. Scott, 1858; B. F. Denslow, 1859; Martin Bumgardner, 1861; Augustus Oulman, 1863; C. A. Stedman, 1865; Martin Cooper, 1869; A. L. Shay, 1871; W. W. Olmstead, 1873; W. A. Chapman, 1875; A. N. Brones, 1879; George A. Franklin, 1885; W. H. May, 1887; W. A. Chapman, 1889; L. C. Brown, 1893; K. N. Knudson, 1899; L. C. Brown, 1903. Mr. Brown was reelected in 1906, 1908, 1910 and 1912.  The law was then changed so that the county superintendent of schools is elected by the board of education.  At the beginning of the year 1917 the office was held by Jessie M. Parker.

County Judges—At the time the County of. Winnebago was organized in 1857, the county judge system was in operation under the new constitution, and that official transacted the greater part of the public business in his county.  Robert Clark was elected county judge in 1857; J. K. Boyd, 1861; Samuel Tennis, 1863.  By the act of March 2, 1860, the office of county judge was abolished and the board of supervisors was created, the members of which were to be elected at the general election in 1860 and take office on January 1, 1861.  However, it appears that the people of Winnebago County continued to elect county judges until 1863, though the records show that the real business of the county was transacted by the board of supervisors.  The county judge merely performed the duties of clerk to the board and was “more ornamental than useful” so far as the real management of public affairs was concerned.

Supervisors—The first board of supervisors for Winnebago County were elected in November, 1860, and the members assumed the duties of their office on January 1, 1861.  Since that time the board for each year has been composed of the following members:

1861—E. D. Stockton, John Anderson and A. K. Curtis.
1862—Allen T. Cole, Charles D. Smith and A. K. Curtis.
1863—Charles D. Smith, William Lackore and B. F. Wellman.
1864—Same as 1863.
1865—Charles D. Smith, Joseph Tennis, Robert Clark and Jesse Bonar—one for each of the four townships of the county.
1866—Robert Clark, Jesse Bonar, Samuel Tennis and George Thomas.
1867—George Thomas, Ole Anderson, John II. T. Ambrose and Allen T. Cole.
1868—Allen T. Cole, Joseph Tennis, John H. T. Ambrose and S. D. Wadsworth.
1869—C. H. Lackore, William Higginbotham, A. N. Brones, John Iverson and S. D. Wadsworth.
1870—Same as 1869.
1871_Charles D. Smith, Benjamin F. Wellman and R. O. Haughland.  Since 1871 the board has consisted of only three members.
1872—W. O. Hanson, Charles D. Smith and R. O. Haughland.
1873—W. O. Hanson, A. N. Brones and Charles D. Smith.
1874—A. N. Brones, W. O. Hanson and S. D. Wadsworth.
1875—S. D. Wadsworth, A. N. Brones and P. H. Peterson.
1876—S. D. Wadsworth, P. H. Peterson and James W. Fisher.
1877—James W. Fisher, Knut Johnson and P. H. Peterson.
1878—Same as 1877.
1879—Same as 1877.
1880—Same as 1877.
1881—James W. Fisher, Knut Johnson and Andrew N. Honge.
1882—Knut Johnson, Andrew N. Honge and S. G. Honsey.
1883—S. G. Honsey, Andrew N. Honge and William Larson.
1884-85—Same as 1883.
1886—Andrew N. Honge, N. O. Styve and S. G. Honsey.
1887—S. G. Honsey, N. O. Styve and O. O. Ulve.
1888—N. O. Styve, O. O. Ulve and H. H. Mattison.  Mr. Mattison died before the expiration of his term and James Ellickson was appointed to the vacancy.
1889—N. O. Styve, James Ellickson and O. O. Ulve.
1890-91—Same as 1889.
1892—James Ellickson, T. J. Folken and Henry Thompson.  Mr. Ellickson resigned and A. B. Larson was elected for the remainder of the term for which he had been elected.
1893—T. J. Folken, A. B. Larson and Henry Thompson.
1894—Same as 1893.
1895—A. B. Larson, T. J. Folken and Michael Evenson.  No change was made in the board during the next two years.
1898—T. J. Folken, A. B. Larson and J. J. Holland.
1899—J. J. Holland, T. J. Folken and O. O. Skuttle.
1900—J. J. Holland, O. O. Skuttle and A. B. Larson.
1901—Same as 1900.
1902—O. O. Skuttle, J. J. Holland and C. O. Thompson.
1903—C. O. Thompson, J. J. Holland and W. H. Combs.  No change was made in the board during the three years following.
1907—C. O. Thompson, Albert Field and N. K. Anderson.
1908—N. K. Anderson, P. H. Moe and Albert Field.
1909-10—Same as 1908.
1911—N. K. Anderson, P. H.  Moe and Albert Field until the death of Mr. Moe, when Henry Thompson was elected to the vacancy.
1912—Henry Thompson, N. K. Anderson and F. J. Raddle.
1913—Albert Field, F. J. Raddle and Ole Osmundson.
1914-15—Same as 1913.
1916—F. J. Raddle, Ole Osmundson and H. N. Hanson.  This board was in office at the beginning of 1917.


The first Legislature in which Winnebago County was represented was the Fourth, which met on December 6, 1854.  It was one of the twenty-four counties composing a district which was represented in the senate by Andrew Y. Hull, and in the house by J. F. Rice, Joseph C. Goodson and Benjamin Green.  From that time until 1903 Winnebago County was a part of various districts composed of two or more counties.  Those from Winnebago who represented the district during that period were as follows:  David Secor, elected in 1871 and reelected in 1873; Justin M. Hull, 1879; John E. Anderson, 1881; John W. Mahoney, 1887; John Law, 1889; James Ellickson, 1891; W. O. Hanson, 1897; Paul O. Koto, 1899, Eugene Secor, 1901.

From the tune of the admission of the state in 1846 to 1856 the General Assembly met in December of the even numbered years.  From 1856 to 1906 the opening of each session was in January of the even numbered years.  At the general election on November 8, 1904, the voters of the state gave their endorsement to a constitutional amendment that abolished the elections in the odd numbered years and provided for biennial elections, beginning with the year 1906.  Members of the Legislature, whose successors would have been chosen in the fall of 1905, had their terms of office extended until the election of 1906.  The Thirty-first General Assembly met on January 8, 1906, and the Thirty-second on January 14, 1907.  With this exception, and a few cases of special sessions, the Legislature has held its sessions biennially.  At the time the constitutional amendment above referred to was adopted, Winnebago and Worth counties constituted a representative district.  H. L. Olson, of Worth County, was elected in 1903 and had his term of office extended to 1906.  Since that time Winnebago County has had a representative of its own and has sent the following members to the Legislature:  C. N. Flugum, 1906; Lars W. Boe, 1908; Frank W. Russell, 1910; Thomas A. Kingland, 1912; Joseph H. Anderson, 1914—reelected in 1916.

Gilbert S. Gilbertson was elected to the state senate in 1895 and served in the two succeeding sessions; Lars W. Boe was elected in 1912 and was succeeded in 1916 by Thomas A. Kingland, the present state senator.


At the time Winnebago County was organized in 1857, there were only two congressional districts in the State of Iowa.  Winnebago was one of the counties in the Second District, which was then represented by Timothy Davis, of Dubuque.  He was succeeded in 1860 by William Vandever, also of Dubuque.  The census of 1860 showed that Iowa was entitled to six representatives in Congress.  Winnebago was then placed in the Sixth District, which was represented during the next ten years as follows:  Asahel W. Hubbard, of Sioux City, 1862; Charles Pomeroy, of Fort Dodge, 1868; Jackson Orr, of Boone County, 1870.

Three more congressmen were added to Iowa's representation by the census of 1870, and Winnebago County was placed in the Fourth District, of which Henry O. Pratt, of Charles City, was elected representative in 1872; Nathaniel C. Deering, of Mitchell County, 1876.

Since the census of 1880 Iowa has had eleven congressmen, and Winnebago County has been attached to the Tenth District, which is now composed of the counties of Boone, Calhoun, Carroll, Crawford, Emmet, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Humbolt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Webster and Winnebago.  The representatives from this district have been as follows:  Adoniram J. Holmes, of Boone, 1882 to 1888; Jonathan P. Dolliver, of Fort Dodge, 1888 to 1898; James P. Conner, of Denison, 1898 to 1908; Frank P. Woods, of Estherville, 1908 to 1917.

A History of Winnebago County and Hancock County, Iowa. Vol. 2.  Chicago:  Pioneer Publishing Company, 1917.  196-04. Print.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy