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Click on the county name below to see the county facts:


Cass County

Date of Origin – 1853







The county is named in honor of Lewis Cass, a Michigan senator and a unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1848.  The county was established within its present boundaries in 1851 and originated in 1853.

Religious persecution was responsible for bringing the first white men to Cass County.  The Mormons, fleeing from Illinois, were the earliest settlers, and established a community at Indiantown in 1846.

At Indiantown, two of the three commissioners selected to locate a county seat were chosen.  The site they chose was one mile from Indian Town and named Lewis.  Most of the people and businesses in Indian Town moved to Lewis shortly after it was laid out.  In 1856 a frame courthouse was built, and eight years later a small stone building was completed for the county treasurer’s office.

In 1857 there was an attempt to relocate the county seat to Grove City, it was unsuccessful.  On October 20, 1869, after a due canvass of the vote on the re-location of the county seat, the Board declared the city of Atlantic the seat of county government and ordered the county officers to that place. 

In 1872 the first courthouse built in Atlantic was completed.  Until it was completed county offices were held in various empty buildings.

Ten years later the county built its second courthouse at Atlantic.  The $65,000 building was destroyed by a fire in 1932.  The fire started in the clock tower and gutted all of the second floor.  Most of the county records and equipment were saved. 

The present, fourth, courthouse was completed in 1934.  While that was being built, county offices were located in the Atlantic Motors building, where an attempted robbery of the treasurer’s safe took place.  The robbers were interrupted and escaped, but without any money. 

The final cost of the fourth courthouse was $130,000: $65,000 came from a county bond issue, $46,500 from insurance and the remaining was covered by a P.W.A. federal grant.  The concrete and brick building is three stories high.  It was dedicated on December 26, 1934, with the main speaker being the Governor of Iowa, Clyde L. Herring.

The Board of Supervisors approved a new jail addition, which was dedicated in 1984.

Source:  Joyce Jensen, Cass County Recorder.


Cedar County

Date of Origin – 1838






Cedar County, one of the original counties taken from Dubuque County, is named after the Red Cedar River that runs through it.

When the county was established in 1837 the Territorial Legislature designated the town of Rochester as the county seat. It was chosen because of its proximity to stone and timber and it was the only area past Muscatine County that had established ferry service. It was also the only place in the county that had a name and people living in it.

The wheels of government in Cedar County first started turning April 12, 1838, in Rochester. This was the only site on the river above Muscatine County where regular ferry service had been established. At this time there were not more than 150 residents in the county.

Soon population increased and along with it the county seat battle. Several towns were in the running for the county seat; Centerville, Warsaw, Elizabeth, Antwerp, Rochester and Tipton were all visited by the county seat locating committee. After several weeks the committee chose Tipton. It is said that after the site was chosen many whiskey bottles were broken open.

On December 11, 1839, a bill passed both houses in the legislature to change the seat of justice for the county. The first county building in Tipton was a hewed log cabin that served as a courthouse and jail. In the summer of 1841 the county commissioners entered into a contract for the erection of a courthouse in the public square. Work did not progress very well, until a change of contractors took place. Commissioners accepted the courthouse from the new contractors in May 1846.

In 1858 the county began the construction of a "more suitable temple of justice." The cut stone and red brick building was completed in the summer of 1859 at a cost of $45,000. The courthouse was topped by a cupola, which was later removed and replaced by a tower. In 1890 a $12,000 addition was completed. This addition housed fireproof vaults. In 1901 the county and city purchased a $985 clock for the tower. It was removed in 1949 because it was considered a nuisance and unsafe.

On November 3, 1964 voters approved a $595,000 bond issue to replace the courthouse. An additional $40,000 was approved for the building and equipping of the courthouse in 1966. The courthouse, which sits in the center of the square, was dedicated in the summer of 1968.

The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site was established at West Branch (in Cedar County) on August 12, 1965 to create an area where people could come to honor President Hoover and learn about the environment that helped to shape him. The site includes the birthplace cottage, blacksmith shop, Quaker meeting house, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and the graves of President and Mrs. Hoover.

In addition, the National Park Service has acquired the first schoolhouse in West Branch and several early homes. They've restored the exteriors to their 19th Century appearance.

Source: Beverly Fitch, Cedar County Recorder.


Cerro Gordo County

Date of Origin – 1855






Cerro Gordo County is named after the location of a battle in the Mexican War.  At this site General Winfield Scott defeated General Santa Ana of the Mexican army on April 18, 1847.

In 1851 the first white settlers came to the county, settling at Clear Lake.  Four years later, August 7, 1855, the first county elections were held.  Closely following these elections was the appointment of three locating commissioners.  These commissioners located the county seat at Mason City, which was first called Shibboleth and later Masonic Grove.

The first court was held in Mason City in 1857.  It was short-lived because in the summer of 1857 the county seat was moved to Livonia.  A new courthouse was built there, and the county records and offices were soon located at this small town.  This too was short-lived, because in April, 1858, Mason City won back the county seat in an election.  Following this the county erected a $600 stone courthouse in Mason City.   Built in 1866, this building was used until 1900, when it was abandoned.  In 1902 a second courthouse of native stone was completed.  Like its predecessor, it lasted a long time -- from 1902 until 1960 when it was torn down.

The present Cerro Gordo courthouse was first used on November 17, 1960.  The building, purchased from the Standard Oil Company, was remodeled, and an addition was completed at that time to make a 49,000 square-foot building.  That $750,000 project was financed through a bond.  There was another addition in 1978 to create the current building as it stands now. 

In 1999 the county purchased a building located on the block across the street from the current courthouse.  This became known as the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department Annex.  The Department began housing prisoners in the annex in June 2000.

Source: Colleen Pearce, Cerro Gordo County Recorder, 2002.


Cherokee County

Date of Origin – 1857




Both the county and its county seat are named for the Cherokee Indian tribe. The word "cherokee" comes from the Chickasaw word "chiluk-ki," which means "cave people."

The county was established in 1851 and originated in 1857.  The first settlement was Cherokee, later known as Old Cherokee. In February 1857 the settlement was attacked by a tribe of Sioux Indians. After three days the band of Indians left the area and headed for the lakes region. After the citizens heard of the Spirit Lake massacre, many deserted the town.

In 1861 three men were chosen to select a suitable county seat site. Cherokee was selected, and a tax levy was used to construct the first courthouse. The 30-square-foot building was constructed of native lumber at a cost of $1,900. When the building was completed in 1864, it was used as a courthouse, public gathering place and a school.

In March of 1870 the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad came through the county. In the fall of 1871 the voters approved the relocation of the county seat to the railroad, or New Cherokee. The following winter a committee was selected to move and repair the county court house.

A new county building was needed as early as 1880, but it was not until 1890 that voters finally approved the construction of a new courthouse. The large Romanesque-style courthouse was completed in 1892 at a cost of approximately $40,000. The pressed brick, granite and slate building was situated high on a hill overlooking the business section of Cherokee.

Approval for the construction of the present courthouse came in a November 3, 1964 election. Voters approved a $575,000 bond issue to construct the split-level, modern-looking building. The new courthouse was dedicated on October 16, 1966.


Chickasaw County

Date of Origin – 1853







The county is named for the prominent Indian nation in the south. The county was established in 1851 and originated in 1853.

The county seat in the early stages of the county was located at Bradford, named after the chief of the Chickasaw Indian tribe. A plain log cabin, erected at a cost of $1,840, was used as the first courthouse. In the spring of 1857 the county seat was moved to New Hampton, a town more centrally located in the county. Following this there were several attempts to remove the county seat from New Hampton. Some county seat bidders were Fredericksburg, Bradford, and Forest City. All were unsuccessful in gaining the county seat.

In 1865 the first courthouse in New Hampton was completed. In 1876 an addition was completed on this building. The entire building was totally destroyed in a fire on March 26, 1880. Many irreplaceable documents were lost, but many more were saved with the help of the "Hook & Ladder Co.," and concerned citizens. With the help of a falling mist and buckets of water, the fire was finally extinguished, with total losses estimated at $2,000.

Due to towns fighting over the location of the county seat, it was not until 1881 that the central portion of a new courthouse was completed at New Hampton. The third courthouse cost $10,500 to complete; New Hampton paid $5,000 of the cost. The building was made of brick and stone. The inside was trimmed with black walnut and ash. In 1905 a wing was added on at a cost of $4,219, and one year later a second wing was completed with a cost of $200.

The current courthouse was completed in 1929 at a cost of $134,000. Architects for the courthouse were Ralston and Ralston of Waterloo, and it was constructed by Tarazar Construction Co. of Albert Lea, Minnesota.


Clarke County

Date of Origin – 1851





Clarke County was originally part of Des Moines County and was established as a separate county on January 13, 1846. It is named after James Clarke who was the Governor of Iowa Territory.

The first settlers of Clarke County were the Mormons, who were on their way to Salt Lake City, Utah. None of them stayed for a long period of time; it was just a stopover for them on the Mormon Trail.

During the session of the Legislature in 1850-1851, a commission consisting of two men and one women was appointed to locate a county seat for Clarke County. In the late summer of 1851 they chose an area and named it Osceola, after a Seminole Indian Chief. George Howe had already claimed the area intended for Osceola, however. It was part of his farmland. He later sold the land to the county for $100.

Although the county had established a county seat, the first courthouse was not completed until 1854. It was contracted for $1,000 but the completed price was $1,600. It was abandoned on January 1, 1883. A second courthouse was built on the same site. It was a red brick structure, complete with a clock tower.

This building was torn down in the fall of 1955 and the construction of a new and modern looking courthouse began in the winter of the same year. The cornerstone was laid in August 1956 and the building was ready for occupation in November 1956. Bonds were approved to cover the $275,000 cost.

Population of Clarke County went from 548 in 1851 to 12,440 in 1900 to 8,287 in 1990. Larger farms have replaced the many small farms; and many residential houses have been torn down, thus reducing the rural population. Manufacturing is now a major livelihood for many families in Clarke County.

Some significant dates and events in Clarke County history:

1858 - Stagecoaches brought DAILY mail to Osceola

1864 - 500 volunteers from the county took part in the Civil War

1884 - County has 72,952 apple trees, 103 school buildings, 3,597 students, 189 teachers, average farm is 145 acres.

1911 - Bluegrass Trail (Highway 34) crosses the county

1907 - Brick paving of streets in Osceola completed

1926 - Concrete replaces brick-paved streets

1953 - Clarke County Hospital opens in Osceola

Partial source: Enid Kendall, Clarke County Recorder


Clay County

Date of Origin – 1858






Clay County, established in 1851 and organized in the fall of 1858, is named after Lieutenant Colonel Henry Clay Jr. of the Mexican War and not the excellent clay that is found in the county, which is used in the making of bricks.

Before its organization Clay County was attached to Woodbury County for judicial and civil reasons.  After its independence was declared, an election was held on October 12, 1858.  It was held at the home of A. S. Mead and its purpose was the election of county officials.  Of the 18 men who voted, 14 were elected to an office.

Those offices were kept in the homes of the officers until 1859.  At this time A. W. Hubbard, Judge of the Fourth Judicial District, authorized a commission to locate a county seat.  On July 16, 1859 the commission chose the present site of Spencer.  But, due to the fact that Spencer was unimproved and no settler lived within a 10-mile radius, it was refused by the residents of Clay. 

In May 1860 the county judge received a petition asking that the county seat be located at Peterson.  An election was held, and all 10 participants voted in favor of Peterson.  Soon afterwards a courthouse was built at a cost of $6,000.

The county seat remained in Peterson until 1871.  In 1871 the town of Spencer was formally laid out, and since it was more centrally located than Peterson, the question of moving the county seat was asked again.  It was answered in an election held in October of that same year;  Spencer won the county seat by a margin of 159 votes.

The first courthouse was built by the residents of Spencer.  They formed a stock company and sold shares.   Those who could not afford a share offered their labor.  When the building was completed, it was sold to the city for $1,333.  A second building was built in 1884 at different location.  It was criticized by the residents as being plain and boring.  It was the best that the county could do because they were held to $5,000 by the law.

It was decided in 1900 that the county needed a new courthouse.  The structure was erected on the same site as the second and was ready for occupation in September 1901.  No formal dedication was held: the doors were just opened and business was continued.  This building is no comparison to the second.  Costing $60,000, $3,000 on marble alone, it is a beautiful structure.

In 1979 the Board of Supervisors decided to renovate the existing courthouse and construct an administration building.  The motion passed in August and $2.1 million was approved for the two projects.  A dedication ceremony was held on September 26, 1982, and Clay County now has two buildings that it can be proud of.     

History of Clay County, 1886.
Sharon McKeever, Clay County Recorder, 2002


Clayton County

Date of Origin – 1838






Clayton County derives its name from U. S. senator and cabinet member John Middleton Clayton of Delaware. Clayton assisted in the passage of the Wisconsin Territorial bill.

During its early years, Clayton County had a very mobile county seat. The first county business was conducted in Prairie La Porte, established in 1837. Since 1847 the town has been called Guttenburg, in honor of Johannes Guttenburg. Court was held in this first county seat in 1838, in rooms rented from Graybill's Tavern at a cost of $5 per day.

The first courthouse was built in Prairie La Porte in 1840. Robert Hatfield was paid $73.50 for the delivery of materials and David Hastings was given $23 for the construction, making the total cost of the building $96.50.

An act to relocate the county seat was approved by the Territorial Governor in January 1840. The new site was to be Allotat, but residents of the county voted it down and retained Prairie La Porte in an August 1840 election. Later, in 1843, the voters approved the relocation of the county seat, this time to Jacksonville.

The second courthouse, first at Jacksonville, was built in 1844. Total cost of the project was $675. In May 1846, the town's name was changed to Garnavillo, after a town in Ireland. Garnavillo remained the county seat for a decade. Then it was removed to the town of Elkader, for only one year. It was then returned to Guttenburg until 1860, when it again was moved back to Elkader. It has remained at Elkader since then, fighting off challenges by McGregor and Garnavillo.

The present courthouse was begun in the summer of 1867. Land for the building was provided by the town of Elkader, and county funds were appropriated for the $5,000 project. The cornerstone, laid in 1887, reads "July 4, A.L. 5877". The A.L. stands for Anno Lucis, or Year of Light, a date used by Freemasons to indicate the number of years that have elapsed since 4000 B.C., which is assumed to be the date the Ten Commandments were revealed to Moses.

When it became apparent that Elkader was to become the permanent county seat, the project was completed in 1878, at a cost of $10,000. The extra $5,000 was due to the "work having been done in a more substantial manner than the contract called for"; the extra cost was paid for by the citizens of Elkader.

A 45-foot clock tower was added in 1896 at cost of $1,860. It was constructed by Wm. F. Feulling of Farmersburg. It required daily winding until 1980, when it was electrified.

Clayton County has lots of historic buildings and sites, including Spook Cave, which is listed as the longest underground boat tour, and the Indian Mounds at Effigy Park, which are more than 2,000 years old. The county is also proud of Keystone Arch Bridge, a twin-arch bridge built in 1889 of local quarried limestone. It took nine months to build the 346-foot bridge at a cost of $16,282.49. The bridge is reputed to be the longest of its type west of the Mississippi. Both the bridge and the courthouse have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sources: "Courthouse", The Clayton County Register, 26 July, 1989:3
Jean Welsh, Clayton County Recorder


Clinton County

Date of Origin – 1840







The county is named in honor of the two-time governor of the state of New York, DeWitt Clinton.

The county was established in 1837.  The original county seat originated in 1840 was Camanche. However, this county seat was changed to Vandenburg (later called DeWitt) the following year by a petition to the Territorial Legislature. DeWitt was the better choice due to its location in the geographic center of the county.

The first courthouse was constructed of basswood timbers. This courthouse also doubled as a hotel, with court being held on the first floor and the attic being used as sleeping quarters for jurors and witnesses.

This courthouse was used until 1846, when it was considered to be inadequate. County business was then conducted in various locations until 1854, when the second courthouse was completed. This 40-foot x 50-foot building was to be a duplicate of the Scott County courthouse. The total cost of the building was $6,000.

The majority of Clinton County's population lived along the Mississippi River. Therefore, it was not long before there was a call to relocate the county seat closer to the population. In 1869 the town of Clinton won the right to become the county seat. An election was held, and Clinton beat out rival Lyons by 511 votes. A courthouse was then erected in only 23 days at a total cost of $3,200.

This small courthouse was replaced in 1878 by a small, fireproof brick structure. Cost of this building was $5,000. It served the county until 1897, when the present courthouse was completed. The $168,000 present courthouse is built of red sandstone and granite. It has a large central tower that is constructed of copper, which has weathered to a bright green.

On June 3, 1960, Camanche was the scene of the most tremendous tornado on record. Not a building, tree, fence, animal, or human being in the tornado's path escaped. It lasted only about three minutes, but the village of 1,200 people was almost totally destroyed. Entire buildings were pulverized, poultry had their heads completely twisted off and the feathers cleanly plucked, parts of human bodies were strewn about the wreckage, and iron wagon wheels were straightened out perfectly flat. The most reliable authorities of the time estimated the total number killed at 134.


Crawford County

Date of Origin – 1855






Crawford County is named in honor of William Harris Crawford.  He was a Georgia senator, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Treasury (1817-1825) and a presidential candidate in 1824.

The county was established in 1851 and originated in 1855.  The county has always been Denison.  It is named after its founder and promoter Jesse W. Denison.  Born in New York, Denison knew that the settlement of the Mississippi Valley was the future of the United States.  He formed the Providence Western Land Company of Providence, Rhode Island.  He soon was successful in filing for 23,000 acres in Harrison and Crawford counties.  With the help of a surveyor, Denison laid out his “dream city.” With its central location in the county, Denison was the logical choice for the county seat.

The first courthouse was a brick building built by H. C. Laub in 1857.  Only the upper floor was completed for an assembly room; county offices did not move in until the summer of 1859.  By 1878 county offices outgrew the building and an addition the same size was added.  During the spring, summer and fall of 1902, much agitation occurred for the need of a new courthouse.  The advocates of a new courthouse cited many reasons:  the county records and papers were in danger of being destroyed by fire, the old courthouse had run out of space, and the county was wealthy enough to afford one.

Construction of the new courthouse started on November 10, 1903, a whole year after an election approved it.  The courthouse was to originally cost $75,000, but additions and changes, added $40,000 to that figure.   The first story is constructed of Port Wing sandstone and the second and third stories are made of Bedford White stone.  The dome and all marble work were done by Morzen and Rokahr at a cost of $20,850.  After much heated discussion, the Board of Supervisors ordered the removal of the dome for safety reasons in 1946.  A complete restoration of the courthouse, including interior paint, new wiring and new windows and doors was done in 1976.  A celebration was held in May of that same year.

History of Crawford County, Crawford County Recorder
Denise Meeves, Crawford County Recorder


Dallas County

Date of Origin – 1847






George Mifflin Dallas, mayor of Philadelphia, U. S. senator from Pennsylvania and Vice President of the U.S. under James K. Polk is the namesake of Dallas County.  The city of Dallas, Texas is also named in his honor.

The county was established in 1846.  The first county elections were held in a schoolhouse on April 15, 1857 east of present-day Adel.  The county seat was originally called Penoach or Panouch, an Indian word meaning “far away.”  In 1849 the name was changed to Adel.  The county seat has remained at Adel, but not without fights from Dallas Center, Perry and Waukee. 

The first courthouse was a simple log cabin built by Buel Lathrop in 1848.  It had two rooms connected under one roof with crude looking chimneys on each side for heating.  This building was replaced in 1853 by a 20-foot x 40-foot, one-story frame building.  It was “comfortably finished and furnished.”  Although it was better than the previous courthouse, it was only used until 1858, when a third courthouse was constructed.

The third courthouse came about after an election authorized its construction by a vote of 401 to 240.  This structure was two stories high and constructed of brick.  The $20,000 building was located on the town square.

In 1902 the fourth and present courthouse was dedicated.  The $109,243 building is impressive looking.  The tower is 128-foot-tall with a clock that was donated by the people of Adel.  It is decorated by statues and a stone engraving of the 1853 courthouse.  This courthouse, like many others in Iowa, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1993, a restoration project was started which uncovered artwork and stenciling throughout the public hallways and court room areas of the courthouse.  Restoration architect William Wagner of rural Dallas Center assisted by offering advice and his time while restoring hidden faux marbling on the wainscoting in the district court room.  Mr. Wagner, at the age of 80, continued to consult with the county until he lost his life in an automobile accident in 2001.  We are very proud of our district court room and the magnificent chandelier manufactured by St. Louis Antique Lighting.

Restoration is an ongoing project for the county, as we strive to keep our 100 year old courthouse in good condition.  We are planning a birthday celebration and rededication during the week of September 16-20, 2002. 

Stanek, Edward & Jacqueline, Iowa’s Magnificent County Courthouses, Wallace-Homestead, 1976
Carole J. Bayeur-Dawson, Dallas County Auditor, 2002


Davis County

Date of Origin – 1844







Davis County was named in honor of Garret Davis, a Congressman from Lexington, Kentucky.  In its early days Davis County was referred to as “the Hairy Nation.”  The name was given to the county because of the shaggy, rough, unkempt appearance and rude manner of the men that resided in the area.

There was an early dispute on the site of the county seat.  One site was the area of Bloomfield, and the other site was the town of Richmond.  Numerous petitions were filed on behalf of both towns at the Territorial Legislature.  The matter was settled in an election, with Bloomfield gaining a majority.

The naming of the county seat was done by the county commissioners.  Since the commissioners all favored different names, the matter was settled by the luck of the draw.  The name Bloomfield was pulled out of a hat.  The other choices were Jefferson and Davis.

The county was established in 1843.  The first courthouse was a two-story, hewed-log building that was finished in 1844.  The construction cost was $164, and in November 1844, $175 was paid for lumber, glass and putty.  This building underwent many repairs, and finally in 1851, the building was abandoned.  For the next 27 years county offices were kept at various locations in Bloomfield.

Five different propositions for a courthouse went to the voters.  All failed, except the last one in 1875.  On August 22, 1877 the cornerstone for the present courthouse was laid.  The cost of the building was $61,496.58, and an additional $2,500 was spent for an iron fence.  The fence has since moved to Jay Cemetery in Lick Creek township in Davis County. 

In June 2002, Davis County celebrated its 125th anniversary (1877-2002) with festivities in the courtyard and courthouse tours.  A courthouse cookbook was also created to remember the celebration.

Source: Megan Clyman, Davis County Deputy Recorder, 2002


Decatur County

Date of Origin – 1850






Decatur County was established in 1846 and organized in 1850.  It is named after Stephen Decatur, an American naval hero of the War of 1812.  

An area for the county seat was selected by the county commissioners and named Decatur.  The public objected, and prevailed upon the General Assembly to order a vote to establish a county seat.  The majority vote in 1853 favored moving the county seat a few miles to the east and naming it Independence. 

Citizens of Decatur refused to relinquish the county records, so the records were taken under cover of darkness to Independence with a wagon and a team of oxen. 

Later it was discovered that there was another town by the same name in Buchanan County.  Decatur County then changed its county seat’s name to South Independence.  In 1855, the name was changed to Leon. 

It is evident that not much business was transacted at the county seat in these first years, as it was said the county clerk of 1852 carried all the important papers of his office in his hat!

The first courthouse was 20 by 22 feet and 14 feet high, made of logs for $375 in 1851.  After only a few years, the crude log structure was outgrown and a new courthouse built to replace it.  The buildings which followed this old log courthouse, until the one which stands today, seemed to exist under a streak of bad luck.  The first was a small frame building which was soon declared unusable.  A new one was begun but a windstorm destroyed it before it could be finished.  The next was razed by a fire on March 31, 1874.  One book from the auditor’s office and one book from the clerk’s office survived.  The safe in the treasurer’s office contained more than $33,000, and when the rubbish was cleared and the safe opened, the money was found intact.  A snowstorm came just in time to keep the flames from destroying other parts of the town. 

After the misfortune of the previous courthouses, the people of the county were determined to build one which would be more resistant to fire and wind.  Consequently, in 1875, at an approximate cost of $20,000, a brick courthouse was completed.  However it was not burglar-proof.  On April 1, 1877, burglars, attempting to rob the treasurer’s office, broke into the courthouse, put a charge of dynamite under the safe, and blew the entire west side of the courthouse away.  The sheriff and treasurer were called, the safe once again recovered from the rubbish, and once again, all money was found intact.  Voters passed a resolution to build another courthouse in 1905.  This time the courthouse was built of iron, steel, stone, tile, brick, marble and granite – completely fireproof and a safe place to keep valuable records.  The structure, still in use today, was dedicated in 1908 and cost $70,000.

The History of Decatur County, Iowa 1970 by Himena V. Hoffman
William Greenwood, Decatur County Auditor, 2002


Delaware County

Date of Origin – 1844






Delaware County was either named in honor of Senator John Middleton Clayton’s native state Delaware, or it was named after Thomas McCraney’s home county in New York state.  McCraney was a member of the first Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Wisconsin.

The county was established in 1837.  The first county seat was located at Eads’ Grove.  The town was named Elizabeth, in honor of Mrs. Elizabeth Bennet, the first woman settler of the county.  The residents of the county were extremely dissatisfied with this location.  They obtained the permission to choose another site, and the site they chose was Delhi.

The choosing of Delhi as the county seat is rather interesting.  The selecting committee wanted to locate the county seat in the geographical center of the county, but there was no timber or water in the center of the county.  After visiting several locations, the committee was approaching the site of Delhi.  Suddenly a deer sprang up and ran off.  It was suggested that they kill the deer and stake a site at that location.  This was done, and Delhi became the county seat.

Four long years passed before the county could raise the $200 needed to purchase the land for the county seat.  Finally two residents of the county offered to loan the county the $200.  The county sold county orders at 50 cents on the dollar to reimburse the two residents.

In the winter of 1843-1844 a hickory log courthouse was built at Delhi.  This courthouse was the first building erected in the county seat. Another courthouse was built in the early 1850s, but it soon became too small for county business.

A new county building was erected in 1857.  The cost of the two-story brick structure was $5,000.  The architecture was of unique style.  It was said to “resemble some battlements of the feudal ages, without possessing any of their beauty or grandeur.”

A battle over the county seat developed between Manchester and Delhi.  Several elections were held over the location of the county seat.  Manchester failed all them, except the last one held on November 2, 1880.

Following this election, the citizens of Manchester quickly constructed a two-story frame courthouse, complete with a vault.  This building was a temporary structure, and a more elaborate building was constructed in 1894.  The red brick building cost $36,860 to build, not including $800 for plumbing.  Seven hundred county citizens bought a clock that was placed in the tower in 1895.  This courthouse, the fourth for Delaware County, was dedicated on January 7, 1895.

Employees of Delaware County held a centennial open house on September 7, 1996 to honor the existing building.  Each office participated in fundraising, giving tours, baking cakes to share with the visitors, and games or displays for all to see.  T-shirts and sweatshirts were printed and sold to the public.

In conjunction with the open house, the Auditor, Treasurer, and Recorder's Offices were renovated by installing wallpaper, carpet, new paint, and restoring all the original woodwork in each office.  The lobby area on the main floor also was painted and the woodwork restored.

The upper level and court room were updated in 1998.  The court room was painted and several offices of the court area were remodeled, painted and carpeted.  Future plans include a renovation of the basement level and Assessor's Office.

Deb Peyton, Delaware County Recorder, 2002

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