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12/28/10

 

 

 

Iowa

COUNTY FACTS

Page 4

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

HARRISON
HENRY
HOWARD
HUMBOLDT
IDA
IOWA
JACKSON
JASPER
JEFFERSON
JOHNSON
JONES
KEOKUK
KOSSUTH
LEE
 

Harrison County

Date of Origin – 1853

 

 

 

 

 

The first territorial governor of Indiana and ninth president of the U.S., William Henry Harrison, is the namesake of Harrison County.

The county was established in 1851.  Locating commissioners selected a site for the county seat and named it Magnolia in 1853.  The 160 acres was donated by the United States Government.  A log cabin courthouse was built at this site, and in September 1854, it and all of the county records were destroyed in a fire.

A second courthouse was built later in 1854 with proceeds from the sale of town lots.  This building was used until 1873, when it was condemned.  At this time a brick building was constructed at a cost of $5,000. In 1876 the county seat was moved to Logan and this building was sold to the Methodist Episcopal Church of Magnolia.

A full block of land was donated by the city of Logan for the third courthouse.  In 1877 a two-story 55-foot x 70-foot brick building was constructed at a cost of $14,000.  The residents of Logan paid $9,000, and the county paid $5,000.

In 1890 it had become apparent that the county had outgrown the courthouse.  There was still some debate on the location of the county seat, so even after a grand jury had condemned the old courthouse, a proposal to construct a new one was defeated in an election.  It was not until 1910 that a $100,000 bond issue was approved.

Construction of the present courthouse commenced on July 5, 1910.  The architect was J. E. Mills of Detroit and the contractor was W. J. McAlpine of Dixon, Ill.  The 68-foot x 96-foot building was constructed of steel and concrete.  It is faced with Bedford limestone.  Total cost of construction and equipment of the courthouse was $103,205.15.

 

Henry County

Date of Origin – 1837

 

 

 

 

 

The boundaries of Henry County were defined by the Territorial Legislature of Wisconsin in 1836, but it was not legally established until 1837 by the Iowa Territorial Legislature.  Prior to establishment of Jefferson County on the west in 1839, all of that part of the Black Hawk Purchase situated in the present county of Jefferson, was attached to Henry County for judicial purposes.

The county was named for Henry Dodge, who was a general in the Black Hawk War and was governor of the Wisconsin Territory.

The first courthouse in the state of Iowa was built in Mount Pleasant in 1839.  A second courthouse, used from 1871 - 1914 was the remodeled “Hill Hall,” on the same block as the county jail.  When it was put up for sale in 1914 it only brought $247.50.  The present building was completed in 1914.  

The earliest roads followed the tops of ridges and Indian paths.  Later, they cut straight against the plain.  Many of these roads still retain their original locations as originally surveyed and laid out.

Henry County was the only county in Iowa to have two military roads, present U.S. route 218 was one of them.

Sources: 
Iowa Press Assn. “Who’s Who in Iowa” copyright 1940

Henry County Bicentennial Commission

 

Howard County

Date of Origin – 1855

 

 

 

 

 

Howard County, established in 1851 and formally organized by Judge James Lyon of Chickasaw County in July 17, 1855, is named in honor of General Tilghman Ashurst Howard.  He held various offices in Tennessee and Indiana and was a long time friend of Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston.

A county seat battle raged in Howard County for 25 years. The county seat has been in the towns of Vernon Springs, Howard Center and New Oregon.  Finally, in 1858, to put a stop to these battles, the county seat was located between the towns of Vernon Springs and New Oregon at a site called Pike’s Peak.  In February 1859 the courthouse was built with money raised by residents of Vernon Springs and New Oregon.  This building was deemed unsafe and abandoned in 1865.  The county records were then moved to a stone building in Vernon Springs.

In 1867 the citizens of Shook’s Grove (now called Cresco) offered the county a new building.  It was constructed by the Howard County Court House Association.  In July 1867 the Board of Supervisors moved into this building but exceeded its authority when it did this, so the decision went to an election.  The voters favored keeping the courthouse at Pike’s Peak, but county business was still conducted at Cresco.

In 1868 the treasurer’s office was broken into, and $13,000 in money and securities was stolen.  The person responsible was never apprehended.

This arrangement continued until the courthouse at Cresco burned down on December 1, 1876.  After the fire the citizens of Cresco agreed to extend the city limits to include Pike’s Peak.  With this done, the Board of Supervisors then relocated the courthouse to the town square.  It was here were Howard County built its present courthouse.  This Italianate-Classic style building, constructed of light red brick, was completed in January 1880.  The courthouse association paid $5,707.90, and the county paid $1,040 for the building.

In 1964 voters approved a $60,000 bond issue to improve the courthouse.  Two additions provided for more storage in the vault and more office space.  The main structure is still much as it was when completed in 1880.

 

Humboldt County

Date of Origin – 1857

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humboldt County is named in honor of Baron Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt, a famous German scientist, explorer and statesman.

The county was originally created on January 15, 1851 but was then legislated out of existence in July 1855.  The land was given to Kossuth and Webster counties.  On February 26, 1857 the county was re-established as Humboldt County but only with 12 townships.

The first white man to build a cabin in the county was Henry Lott.  In 1854, Lott killed Sidominadotah, an Indian chief, and most of his family and then fled the state.  The Spirit Lake Massacre was led by Inkpaduta, brother of Sidominadotah.

The county had been in existence for 15 years before a courthouse was erected at Dakota City, which had been chosen as the county seat in 1857.  This first courthouse was built at a cost of $5,000.  It was constructed of bricks that were made at the courthouse site.  The original size of the building was supposed to be 37-foot x 47-foot, but the final dimensions were 47-foot x 59-foot and two stories high.

After several heated debates, the citizens of Humboldt County finally agreed to the construction of a new courthouse.  Some people felt Humboldt should get the new building, but Dakota City remained the county seat.

Dakota City has the smallest population of any county seat in Iowa (911 as of 2000 census).

The building was dedicated on February 25, 1939.  It is a three-story, 64-foot. x 104-foot gray brick building.  The county paid $95,000 of the $175,000 cost.  The remaining balance was furnished by the Public Works Administration.

Source: Peggy Rice, Humboldt County Auditor, 2002

 

Ida County

Date of Origin – 1858

 

 

 

 

 

Ida County was established in 1851.  The county’s name is usually credited to Eliphalet Price, about 1852.  Price was on a State Commission to name Iowa’s newly formed counties.  The story claims he was camped east of the grove watching Indian campfires on the far ridge, and the image brought to mind Mount Ida in ancient Greece.  Price called the county Ida, and even before settlement seriously began, the new county’s most significant landmark was know as Ida’s Grove.  The Grove that someday would give Ida Grove its name and was one of only a few scattered timber groves in the county.

The first authentic account of the early settlement of Ida County states that in 1854, Robert Townsley and Edward Smith build a cabin and raised a small crop of corn. The first white child born in the county was a girl to Ed and Margaret Smith and was named Ida.  (Some say she was named for the county; others say the county was named after her.)

At this point in history Ida Grove takes on the first hint of permanence with the arrival of Ebenezer Cornstock and John Moorehead.  The Cornstocks and Mooreheads were farmers.  They depended on the land to provide for their families and livestock.

It was the Moorehead’s cabin that was destined to become the center of slowly growing commerce in the area.  The arrangement of early homesteads made his cabin on the south end of the grove the first human habitation after a 25 mile trek, and it was only natural that is would become a regular stage coach stop.

 The official organization date of the county is just as unclear.  The first settlements were made in 1856 near the Maple River, and some say the county was organized shortly afterwards in 1858, with a county population of 40.  Others say that the correct date is January 1, 1859.

The county was originally divided into four townships: Douglass, Silver Creek, Corwin and Maple.  From June 6, 1876 to January 4, 1881, the other townships were detached from the originals.

The county seat was officially located in Ida Grove on December 17, 1860 and the first regular meeting of the board of supervisors was January 1, 1866.  Members present included: J.H. Moorehead, A.J. Teal and M.G. Aldrich. 

The first courthouse of Ida County was built in the original town of Ida in 1871 and was nearly completed before any other building was begun near the site.  On January 12, 1877, the courthouse burned, along with most of the county records.  County offices were then located in various locations around the town.

Late in 1879 a building was constructed with private funds.  The county had the option to either rent or buy the building.  In 1880 the county moved its offices into the building.

On July 2, 1883, the letting of a contract to build a new courthouse and jail as per plans and specifications of J.P. Bryant was held with W. Townsend and J.M. Starbuck having the low bid of $28,145 with the erection and completion of the building to be on or before January 1, 1884.

The 66-foot x 82-foot brick structure is in ornate Victorian style.  Due to state of repairs, in the 1960s the building did undergo some remodeling.  The basement and large courtroom were remodeled into offices and storage space.

In 1974, the 1883 courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This makes it eligible for federal restoration funds and prohibits the use of federal funds for its destruction.

In 1970, the first of seven bond issues asking to build a new courthouse was defeated.  On November 4, 1980 plans to erect “a new courthouse and renovate portions of the courthouse not previously remodeled at a total cost not to exceed $900,000 and use federal revenue sharing funds on hand to pay the cost thereof” was passed and the blending of the old and the new on courthouse hill seemed to be a suitable compromise to the courthouse issue.  This building was dedicated to the present and future citizens of Ida County on September 25, 1983.

Ida County contains the following municipalities:  Arthur, Battle Creek, Galva, Holstein and Ida Grove.  There are 12 townships and the 2000 census shows a population of 7,837.  The county is basically agricultural although there are three manufacturing companies that employ several hundred people.

Harold Hughes, a native son of Ida Grove, was Governor of Iowa 1962-1968.

In 1987, Bruce M. Snell, Jr. of Ida Grove was named to the Iowa Supreme Court by Governor Branstad.  Judge Snell’s father had also served on the Supreme Court, making the Snells the first father and son to have served on the Iowa Supreme Court.

Sources: 
Jim Dowling, Sac County Recorder
Lorna Steenbock, Ida County Auditor, 2002

 

Iowa County

Date of Origin – 1845

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa County derives its name from the Iowa River, which runs through the county, and for the Ioway Indian tribe.

The county was established in 1843.  The county seat, Marengo, was originated on August 13, 1845, 14 years before it was even a town. It seems that a land speculator by the name of E. C. Lyons beat the county officials to the land office and bought the area of Marengo. It took some time for county officials to round up the funds to purchase the county seat from Lyons. Local citizens who contributed were paid back with town lots.

The county seat of Iowa County has always been Marengo, but not without a fight. The first battle came when some settlers disliked the town name. "Marengo" comes from Italy, where Napoleon Bonaparte gained a celebrated victory. The area of the Iowa Valley that contains Marengo is said to resemble that same area in Italy. The settlers changed the name to Valley Forge but later it was discovered that they had no authority, so the name remained Marengo.

A second battle over the county seat came in March 1857, when the enemies of Marengo started a movement to move the county seat to Genoa Bluffs. A petition was presented to the judge asking that the question of the location of the county seat be put on the general election on April 1857. It was soon discovered, however, that the petition contained names of non-legal voters. These names removed, the petition no longer contained sufficient numbers to call for an election.

The final battle came from Williamsburg. A petition was presented, with the sufficient number of signatures, and an election was held in November 1864. Marengo won out by a vote of 968 to 500.

The first courthouse was a log cabin that cost $50 to build in 1847. It was rejected by the county as being to small, but they did rent it for some years, until 1850. That was when the second courthouse was completed. This more elaborate building was used until 1861. Construction of a third courthouse began in 1861 an the completed cost was $2,000. In 1869 this building underwent the construction of an addition, but by 1890 the courthouse was too small for county business.

The current courthouse was erected in 1892. It is a two-story, stone building ornamented with turrets and a tower. It was designed by Foster and Liebbe and constructed by P. H. Wind at a cost of $57,608.

Sources:
Dinwidde, James C., History of Iowa County Iowa, vol.1, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. , Chicago: 1915
Lillie, Pauline, Marengo, the County Seat, Marengo the Town, 1984

 

Jackson County

Date of Origin – 1837

 

 

 

 

Jackson County, located in eastern Iowa along the Mississippi River, is named in honor of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.

When Jackson, Jones, and Linn counties were first established in 1837, Bellvue (sometimes spelled Belleview, Bellview, or Bellevue) was the seat of justice for all three.  It was named in honor of John D. Bell, an early resident and postmaster of the county.  The county commissioners met for the first time on April 2, 1838.  At this time Bellvue was the only town of significance and therefore the logical choice for a county seat.

A one mill tax was levied by the commissioners for the county fund and a one-half mill tax for the court fund.  Since money was scarce, payments in commodities, such as coonskins and maple sugar were accepted for tax payments.

When Iowa became an official territory on July 4, 1838, the Territorial Assembly set up a procedure to locate a new county seat that was more centrally located.  The locating commissioners chose the town of Andrew as the new county seat.  An election was then held between the towns of Bellvue and Andrew.  Andrew was declared the winner.

The first actual county courthouse for Jackson County was built at Andrew.  It was a log cabin that measured 30 feet x 40 feet. This structure was used until 1848 when the county seat was then moved back to Bellvue.  A brick structure had been built at Bellvue, and it served the county until 1861.  At this time the county seat was moved back to Andrew.

In 1861 the town of Andrew built its second courthouse.  The building cost the town $6,000, and it was offered to the county rent-free for five years.  In 1866 the county purchased the building for $2,000.  The three-story stone structure served the county for 12 years, and then it was sold to the Andrew Cooperative Creamery Company.

In 1873 the county seat battles that were abundant in the early 1800s came to an end.  The railroad had come to the town of Maquoketa, and the population of the town had grown substantially.  The city council built a large “city hall” at a cost of $14,000.  The size of the building was 45-foot x 81-foot and  was constructed of dressed stone.  The county signed a 99 year lease that committed it to the building and the town for $1.

In 1938 the courthouse had been outgrown, so much so that some of the county offices were in other buildings.  In 1958, the county corrected this problem.  A $400,000 one-story structure was constructed on the site of the previous courthouse.  The architect was William J. McNeil, and the contractor was Roth & Associates.  The county moved into the building on January 1, 1961.

Sources: 
Jackson County Directory, 1878
Mike Cotton, Jackson County Auditor, 2002

 

Jasper County

Date of Origin – 1846

 

 

 

 

 

Jasper County, with an area of 736 square miles, was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Sergeant William Jasper.  The county seat Newton was named after Sergeant Newton.  Newton and Jasper both served under General Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox.”

The first county elections were held on April 6, 1846, and the first county business was conducted on April 14, 1846.  In the summer of 1846 the commissioners selected Newton City as the county seat.  On February 3, 1847 the legislature shortened the name to Newton.

In 1846, before a courthouse had been constructed at Newton, one was built at Adamson’s Grove.  This building was offered to the county but it was declined.

Finally, in 1847, the first courthouse was constructed at Newton.  It was a small, inexpensive building.  Evan Adamson was paid $87.50 to construct it.  In 1857 this building was sold and moved to a farm.

In 1858 a more elaborate and appropriate building was built.  The 62-foot x 50-foot two-story structure was sandstone and brick and faced with limestone.  The building served the county for several years until it became unsanitary and a firetrap.  In 1909 it was torn down.

The present courthouse was dedicated on April 6, 1911.  The large three-story building is made entirely of Bedford limestone.  Only the doors and window casings are made from wood.  The interior is decorated with ceramic tile and marble wainscoting. 

A clock tower rises 56 feet above the roof.  The four dials of the clock measure 8 feet in height.   Private funds in the amount of $1,200 were donated for its purchase.  Total cost, including furnishings, was $200,226.

Source:  Nancy Parrot, Jasper County Recorder, 2002

 

Jefferson County

Date of Origin – 1839

 

 

 

 

 

Jefferson County is named after the framer of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.

The locating commissioners located the county seat of Jefferson County at Fairfield on March 4, 1838. There was some minor disappointment that it was not located at Lockridge, but after time passed, Fairfield was seen as a wise choice. The county was established and originated in 1839. 

The first lots of Fairfield were sold to provide funds for public buildings. The first of these buildings was the courthouse. Built in 1839, it was the first courthouse built in Iowa that was not a log cabin or a temporary structure. This building cost $725, plus extras and painting. By 1845 this building was considered inadequate for county use. It was sold by the county and subsequently used as a blacksmith shop.

Approval for the second courthouse came in an election held August 1846. This stone and brick structure was completed in January 1851 and was being used by the county in May of that same year. Although this building was only 22 years old, a grand jury deemed it unfit for county use. Several attempts to construct a new courthouse failed in elections. It was not until 1890 that the construction of a new courthouse was approved.

This third, and present, courthouse was officially dedicated on January 20, 1893. The total cost of the 68-foot x 88-foot stone and brick structure was $73,630. When this building was first completed, it was heated by steam and contained gas lighting.

Jefferson County claims the first Carnegie Library, the first malleable iron foundary, and the first golf club located west of the Mississippi. In addition, Fairfield enjoys the distinction of hosting the first Iowa State Fair in 1854.

 

Johnson County

Date of Origin – 1838

 

 

 

 

 

Johnson County is named for Colonel Richard Mentor Johnson and not Andrew Johnson, as some believe. Colonel Johnson was in the War of 1812, senator from Michigan and the vice-president of the U.S. during the Van Buren administration.

Until the late 1830s the area known today as Johnson County was nothing more than wilderness and a hunting ground for the Fox and Sac Indians. Between 1832 and 1837 the Indians were stripped of their lands by treaty. Soon settlers began to move into the county. The county was established in 1837.  By 1838 there were two towns competing for the county seat--Osceola and Napoleon. An Act of the Wisconsin Assembly selected Napoleon as the county seat on June 22, 1838. A two-story log cabin courthouse was then constructed at Napoleon.

When the First Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Iowa met at Burlington a bill was approved to locate the seat of government for the Territory of Iowa. The site was to be within the boundaries of Johnson County, and it was to be named Iowa City. Three commissioners met and selected a site two miles north of Napoleon on May 1, 1839.

On December 31, 1839, an Act was passed to relocate the county seat of Johnson County with orders to keep present and future populations in mind. The site of the new county seat was easily chosen as Iowa City, the "capital" of the Iowa Territory. In January 1855, the Fifth General Assembly voted to move the state capital to Des Moines.

The first courthouse built in Iowa City was a temporary two-story structure constructed of bricks. This courthouse burned to the ground in 1856. In 1857 this building was replaced by another courthouse, which was insured for $30,000. This brick building was used until 1899, when it was condemned.

The cornerstone of the present courthouse was laid on December 2, 1899. It was constructed by James Rowson and Son at a cost of $135,000. Bands, balloons and a parade were part of the dedication ceremonies held on June 8, 1901.


 

Jones County

Date of Origin - 1838-1847

 

 

 

 

 

Jones County is named in honor of George Wallace Jones, U. S. surveyor, 1st delegate to Congress from Wisconsin Territory, and U. S. senator from Iowa.

Jones County was established in 1837 and originated from 1838-1847.  The county has had three county seats, the first of these being Edinburgh. A small log cabin was built and used as a courthouse. Although it was the county seat, the town showed no signs of growth. Angered at having a "city of grass" as a county seat, the citizens voted to remove the county seat to one of two places—Newport or Dale’s Ford. Newport was selected as either a joke or due to political maneuvering, because no courthouse was ever built there nor was any court ever held there.

The town of Lexington was selected as the third county seat in a spring 1847 election. Lexington was later renamed Anamosa, after the daughter of Winnebago Chief Nas-i-nus.

County business was conducted in private homes until a courthouse was constructed in 1848. It was a simple two-story frame structure costing $800 to complete. This building was used until 1864, when all of the county records were moved uptown to a new brick building owned by H. C. Metcalf. Following this, the county conducted business in rent-free rooms. In 1935 the county finally approved the construction of a real courthouse. Total cost, some of which was paid via a federal grant, was $200,000. This building was dedicated on September 10, 1937, and 55 years later is still serving Jones County.

A memorial honoring Jones County residents who died while serving our country was installed on the east lawn of the court house and dedicated on Memorial Day, 2002. Engraved in the black granite memorial are the names of Jones County residents who died while serving in the armed forces, beginning with World War I. Flags from the five branches of the armed services surround the memorial. The project was designed and funded entirely by two local veteran’s groups. 

Source: Janine Sulzner, Jones County Auditor


 

Keokuk County

Date of Origin – 1844

 

 

 

 

 

Keokuk County is named for the famous Sac Indian chief. The name means "Watchful Fox," or "He Who Has Been Everywhere."

In May 1843 the entire county was established and opened up for settlement. Before this time the county was attached to Washington County. Like most counties, Keokuk County had its share of problems with the location of the county seat. Some wanted to locate the county seat in the geographical center of the county; others wanted to located it in the population center of the county. This argument was finally settled with the location of the county seat at Sigourney, the geographical center of the county, in 1844. The town was named after the author and poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney. She showed her appreciation by providing the trees which were planted on the courthouse grounds, and presenting 50 volumes to the town library.

Before the county seat was located at Sigourney, county business was completed at Western City (or Newton Village). County offices consisted of a log cabin and a log schoolhouse.

The first courthouse owned by the county was erected at Sigourney in 1845. The small building was made from hewn logs at a cost of $218. This building not only functioned as the courthouse but also the schoolhouse, church, jail, meeting room, and a hotel for travelers. This building served the county until the county seat was removed to Lancaster the following year.

Lancaster won the county seat by a vote in a special election held on August 7, 1846. The county seat was removed to Lancaster, because it was closer to the population center of the county. In 1848 a two-story frame courthouse was constructed at a cost of $699. It did not serve the county long, because the county seat was again moved back to Sigourney by election on April 12, 1856.

Even though Sigourney was declared the county seat, a courthouse was not built in Sigourney for quite some time. Residents thought it wise not to construct a building until the county seat question was answered. When the Iowa Supreme Court finally declared Sigourney the county seat, the third courthouse for Keokuk was begun.

This two-story brick courthouse was completed in 1858, at a cost of $17,200. Improvements and later additions were made at a cost $3,980.

In 1909 this building was leveled and replaced by the existing courthouse. Construction began with the laying of the cornerstone on June 8, 1909 and ended with a dedication ceremony on September 19, 1910. Architects for the building were Wetherell and Gage. It was constructed by J. L. Simmons.

 

Kossuth County

Date of Origin – 1855

 

 

 

 

Kossuth is the largest county in Iowa in area and was named for the Hungarian patriot, Lajos Kossuth. Kossuth County was established in 1851 and originated in 1855.  The first supervisors took office in 1861.  There were three supervisors, one for each township in county at the time.  In 1872, the county voted in favor of having a board of five supervisors, two to be elected at large.  The present districting system was set up in 1900.

The present boundaries of the county were fixed by the legislature in 1857 by blotting Bancroft County out of existence and adding it to Kossuth County.  In 1870, Crocker County was created on the ruins of old Bancroft County, but the Act was declared unconstitutional because the county did not contain 432 miles.  Thus Crocker County passed out of existence, and its 12 townships were added to Kossuth County, reducing from 100 to 99 the number of counties in Iowa.

Until 1866, officials had only temporary quarters.  The supervisors met in the county judge’s office, and the treasurer and recorder were housed in a log addition to the old St. Nicholas hotel.  Records were kept at home, or anywhere that was convenient.

The original courthouse was built in 1867 where the old jail is now located.  A vote in 1871 approved construction of a new courthouse, which was built the next year.  This courthouse served the county until 1953.

After getting approval for a new courthouse in 1947, thrifty supervisors decided to wait until the cost of material decreased before building.  The Board invested the bonds in interest-bearing U.S. war bonds and earned more than $43,000 by the time the new courthouse had been completed in 1955, for a total cost of $520,605.

All of Kossuth County was included in the Sioux Indian claim against the U.S. government in connection with about 29 million acres of land ceded by Sioux treaties from 1805 to 1858.  Settlement of the claims was reached during the summer of 1967, after 160 years of litigation.

Kossuth County boards have been continually plagued by water problems.  On the flat land left by the glaciers there was little runoff.  In the spring, large areas of the county were flooded.  In the early days, there were many elections on whether and where to build bridges.  The votes usually carried, and the county ran heavily in debt.   As the years passed, the county established drainage districts to solve the flooding problem.

There have been several attempts to divide the county, but none ever succeeded, and Kossuth is still the largest county in area in the state. 

Source: Karen Benschoter, Kossuth County Recorder, 2002

 

Lee County

Date of Origin – 1838

 

 

 

 

 

It is believed that the county is named for William Elliot Lee of New York.  His land company, Marsh, Lee and Delevan had extensive holdings in Iowa’s “Half-breed Tract.”  This Tract later became part of Lee County.

The first permanent settlement within Lee County was at Keokuk in 1829.  The county was established in 1836 and originated in 1838.  The town of Fort Madison was named as the seat of justice by the Legislature of the Territory of Wisconsin on January 18, 1838.  There was much controversy over the location of Fort Madison as the county seat.  Residents away from the Mississippi River complained that it was too far away from the center of the county.  The locating commissioners then declared Franklin as the county seat.  Dissatisfaction just increased following this; no county building was ever built at Franklin.  The matter was settled at a special election. Contenders for the county seat were Fort Madison, West Point and Franklin.  Prior to the election Fort Madison pledged $13,559 towards a new courthouse, if it was located there.  Fort Madison won the election, and construction began in July 1841.  The building was completed on September 3, 1842.

This did not end the county seat battle, however.  A group from West Point petitioned the Legislative Assembly of the Iowa Territory to remove the county seat to West Point.  The assembly agreed and named West Point as the new county seat.

West Point agreed to build a brick courthouse with a stone foundation.  It was to be completed by September 1, 1844.  Fort Madison was to remain the county seat for one more year, then the courthouse would be sold with two-thirds of the proceeds going back to Fort Madison.  That auction never took place, and West Point was never the county seat.  During that year the appeal of West Point as the county seat faded so the county seat remained at Fort Madison.

Another special election was held to relocate the county seat.  The contenders this time were Charleston, Franklin, Keokuk, Montrose, West Point and Fort Madison.  Again Fort Madison was named the county seat.

The population of Lee County became so high that a rivalry for the county seat soon developed between the population centers of the county, Keokuk and Fort Madison.  Because of this, the General Assembly passed a special Act, establishing two county seats in Lee County.  One was at Fort Madison and the other at Keokuk.  This makes Lee County the only county in Iowa to have two county seats.

The present courthouse at Keokuk is the renovated Post Office building built in 1890.

The original courthouse at Fort Madison was designed by Father Samuel Mazzuchelli.  County offices were moved in 1978 to a newly-constructed county office building.  The old courthouse is still used for court-related functions.

Even though there have been numerous court battles and editorials over the county seat question, both towns function as the county seat of Lee County.

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