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09/15/11

 

 

 

Iowa

COUNTY FACTS

Page 5

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

LINN
LOUISA
LUCAS
LYON
MADISON
MAHASKA
MARION
MARSHALL
MILLS
MITCHELL
MONONA
MONROE
MONTGOMERY
MUSCATINE
 

Linn County

Date of Origin – 1839

 

 

 

 

 

Linn County is named for Lewis Field Linn, a doctor and an authority on Asiatic cholera.  He was also a U.S. senator from Missouri and active in creating the Wisconsin Territory.

The county was established in 1837 and originated in 1839.  Three men were selected to locate the county seat.  They selected a site in 1839 and quite some time later named it Marion, after General Francis Marion, who was famous in the Revolutionary War.  Settlers of the county cut logs and hauled them to Marion.  There they constructed a log cabin courthouse, free of charge.

In the spring of 1846 a frame building was constructed to replace the log cabin courthouse of 1840.  It was soon replaced by a two-story brick and stone structure.

Marion received continued agitation from Cedar Rapids (originally called Rapids City), over the county seat.  But it was not until a November 4, 1919 election Cedar Rapids was declared the new county seat.  This election was called a victory for the lawyers at the time; about 90 percent of Linn County’s lawyers lived in Cedar Rapids.

The construction of a courthouse in Cedar Rapids was slow going.  Many legal questions had to be answered before a bond issue was finally approved in 1923.  The cornerstone of the new courthouse was laid on November 12, 1923.  The steel frame building sits on concrete piles and the exterior is faced with Bedford limestone.  It was built on Municipal (or May’s) Island, located midstream in the Cedar River, opposite the downtown business district.  The island, about four blocks long and one block wide, was acquired from the city by Linn County for $7.50.  Total cost of the building, including jail, was $550,639.  The building was dedicated on July 6, 1925 and re-dedicated in July 1975 for its 50th anniversary.

The city of Marion gained fame before the turn of the century as the home of the Cherry Sisters, well-known vaudeville performers.

By 1980, Linn County government had outgrown its courthouse, and a bond issue was approved by the voters to purchase the Penick and Ford office building, at 930 1st St. SW, across from the huge corn processing plant of the same name.

The offices of the Board of Supervisors, Auditor, Treasurer, Recorder, County Assessor, Building and Zoning and data processing services were moved to the remodeled Penick and Ford office building in late 1980 and early 1981.   The building was named the Linn County Administrative Office Building.  The original courthouse housed only the courts, the county attorney and the sheriff’s department.

Later in 1981, a bond issue was approved to construct a new jail behind the courthouse on May’s Island.  The original jail was torn down and the new structure was built to house the Sheriff’s Department, as well as approximately 150 prisoners.  The building was named the Linn County Correctional Facility.

In 1998 another bond issue was approved to expand the jail capacity and to purchase the former Cedar Rapids Police Department building to remodel and hold the administrative offices of the Sheriff.  The jail capacity was expanded to nearly 400 prisoners once the Sheriff’s Department was moved to the remodeled police station in December of 2000.

 

Louisa County

Date of Origin – 1837

 

 

 

 

Some claim Louisa County is named in honor of Louisa Massey of Dubuque.  She was famous in folklore to have slain the murderer of her brother.  Others think the name was in honor of Louisa County, Virginia.

Louisa County has a lot of history.  Once the site of a glacier, Louisa County contains more than one-fourth of all archeological sites on the Great River Road in Iowa.  Artifacts from early hunters and farmers are found at those sites.

Louisa County was created out of a strip of land that was known as the Black Hawk Purchase.  The earliest settlers arrived in present day Louisa County in 1835, when it was still part of Demoine County.  Louisa County itself was established in 1836 and originated in 1837.

The first county seat was Lower Wapello, declared by the Wisconsin Legislature in 1838.  But, in January 1839 the Territorial Legislature of Iowa proposed that an election be held to name a county seat.  Wapello was declared the county seat on March 4, 1839.  One year later a one-story brick structure was constructed at a cost of $1,300.

In 1854 the brick courthouse was replaced and then used as a school.  The third courthouse was constructed of stone that was quarried from the bluffs southwest of Wapello.  It cost $9,577 to complete.

There have been many battles between Wapello and Columbus Junction over the county seat.  Columbus Junction went as far as to construct a new courthouse; it was later used as a high school.  In all of these battles Columbus Junction lost.  As a consolation prize, Columbus Junction received the annual Louisa County Fair

The present courthouse is located on the site of the previous courthouse.  The two-story brick and stone building was completed in 1928 at a cost of $100,000.  On the courthouse grounds is a 20-pound Civil War cannon made by G.E. Parret of Notre Dame, Indiana in 1861.

Source:  Verl Lekwa

 

Lucas County

Date of Origin – 1894

 

 

 

 

 

Lucas County was established in January 1846.  It was named in honor of Governor Robert Lucas, first territorial governor of Iowa.  The county lies within the Sac and Fox Indian Purchase by the treaties of 1837 and 1842, which included all the land in the territory west of the Iowa River known as the Black Hawk Purchase.  Not until 1845 did the Indians finally surrender the land.

The county was established in 1846.  It is believed that the Mormons were the first non Native American settlers in the county, spending one winter at a place called Chariton Point, about one and on-half miles southeast of Chariton.  The route they took has since been known as the “Morman Trail.” 

Under the act of the Second Assembly of the State of Iowa “An Act to Organize Lucas County” was approved.  Three Commissioners were then appointed to locate the county seat.  Title to the land for the county seat wasn’t secured until February 1850.  This 160 acres of land cost the county $200 or $1.25 per acre.

A group of settlers then met and decided to name their town Chariton.  Chariton was the name of a Frechman who established a trading post on the Missouri River where the Chariton River enters it.  A surveyor, Williams Webb, was employed to plat the city of Chariton.  The total cost being $108.87.  The newly-platted lots were sold from $5 to $15 per lot.

The first courthouse was erected in 1850 at a cost of $374.  The building being 18 x 22 feet, one and one-half stories high.  In June of 1858, the people voted to build a new courthouse for $13,500.  The building was built of bricks, 60 feet square and two stories high.  The Grand Jury condemned this building in 1891. 

Our present third and present courthouse was completed in February 1894 for $59,670.86.  The clock in the Courthouse Tower was presented to the county by S. H. Mallory on January 1, 1894 and was wound and put into service May 22, 1894. 

Townships were formed April 7, 1851, by the county commissioners.  In 1860 the Eighth General Assembly created the board of supervisors.  In 1869 the county purchased a 200 acre site of ground just northwest of the city of Chariton for $10,500 to be used as the county home.  The county home was in operation until November 27, 1986 when it was closed. 

The first two room jail served until 1871.  Our present jail was built in 1916.  Following are a few of the “Firsts in Lucas County.” 

The first permanent settler was William McDermit, locating in the Cedar Township.  The First State Bank was started bin 1869 with S. H. Mallory as its president.  The first newspaper was printed in 1856 called “The Little Giant.”  In 1857 the “Chariton Patriot,” a Republican paper, was founded by John Edwards and in 1867 the Democrat paper named the “Chariton Leader” was founded.  William McKay of Fort Des Moines was the first District Judge.  The first public library was lad out in September 1849.  By 1875 the population in Lucas County reached 11,725, today the population is 9,070.  Contract to remove the tower from the courthouse, by Rex Perry was signed July 2, 1954. 

In 1992 the Town Square Project started and resulted in new circular sidewalks in the courtyard and new sidewalks going from the circle to the outside of the square.  In 1993 the new lights around the circular sidewalk were installed.  In the summer of 1996, a sidewalk was put in around the outside of the courtyard and new lights were installed around this.  The courtroom in the courthouse was updated with new carpet, window blinds and pews in the summer of 1997.  The county went to the Micro-Vote system for voting at the elections in the summer of 1997.  In 1999, new carpet was put in all offices in the courthouse.  The Treasurers office was moved upstairs to the west side of the courthouse and completely remodeled.  This is to accommodate the addition of the Drivers License Registration and Renewal in the year 2000.  The assessors office moved to the main floor in the southwest corner (formerly the treasurers office).

Source: Linda Reed, Lucas County Recorder, 2002

 

Lyon County

Date of Origin – 1872

 

 

 

 

 

Lyon County was named in honor of Nathaniel Lyon, brigadier general in the Mexican and Seminole Wars. Lyon was killed while leading the First Iowa Infantry at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri. This was the first battle in which Iowa troops took part.

The county was established in 1851.  The county was originally called Buncombe County, in honor of Edward Buncombe of North Carolina. On September 11, 1862 it was officially changed to Lyon County.  The county originated in 1872.

The first county business was held in the homes of the various county officials, often over 45 miles apart. Some offices were held in the village of Beloit. In 1873 the county offices were all located in the town of Rock Rapids, named for the rapids found in the Rock River.

Bids for the first courthouse were opened on May 5, 1873 but it was not until June 24, 1874 that the cornerstone was laid into place. The $14,000 courthouse was dedicated in 1875.

This building was later moved to the north, where it became the Marietta Hotel. Today the three-story building stands as the Boon-Mar Apartments.

The present Lyon County courthouse was started in 1916 and completed one year later at a cost of $135,053. The three-story structure is constructed of Indiana limestone, and the main entrance is appropriately decorated with a carved stone lion.

Construction of an elevator for the courthouse was first proposed in 1967, but objectors appeared at a public hearing with a petition signed by 136 people who were opposed to the project. The matter was dropped until 1987, when an elevator and an exterior chairlift were installed.

Many of the original pieces of oak furniture are still used in the building. In the summer of 1991, an inventory was taken of all unused furniture, equipment and miscellaneous items throughout the building. Many of these pieces were donated to the Lyon County Historical Society. A public auction was held to dispose of the rest of the items.

Sources: Buncombe to Twenty Two, Paul C. Smith & Lucy Colby
Anniversary Booklet and Lyon County Minute Books
Kenneth Mellema, Lyon County Auditor

 

Madison County

Date of Origin – 1849

 

 

 

 

 

Madison County, established in 1846, was named for James Madison, the fourth president of the United States.  The county originated in 1849.

Madison's first courthouse was a one-story log cabin built in Winterset in 1857. The second courthouse was built in 1868-69 completely with Madison County gray limestone, but was destroyed by fire in 1875.

The current Madison County courthouse was built by Andrew Piquenard, planner of both the Iowa and Illinois State Capitols. It was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

In 1969, the courthouse and surrounding square were the setting of the movie "Cold Turkey" starring Dick Van Dyke.

President Ronald Reagan visited the courthouse in 1984.

 

Mahaska County

Date of Origin – 1844

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mahaska County was established in 1843 and originated February 5, 1844, the date Iowa's Territorial Legislature enacted the law authorizing the organization of a county named Mahaska. The county was named for one of the most noted chief of the Ioway Indians.  Mahaska is interpreted as “White Cloud.”  Oskaloosa, meaning “last of beautiful” after a Creek Indian princess, was named the county seat.

By this law Mahaska County became two years older than the State of Iowa. William Edmundson, receiving his appointment from the Territorial Assembly, became the first sheriff and justice of peace and was charged with the organization of the twenty-four mile square county. With the help of his clerk, Micajah T. Williams, these two officers divided the county into nine precincts, and by the first Monday in April 1844, an election was held for county officers.

On May 11, 1844 a Commission of three men, appointed from Iowa's Assembly, selected a site for the county seat. The location was the narrowest point on the divide between the Des Moines and Skunk rivers, known as the "Narrows". They left the naming of the new town to the local Board of County Commissioners, who chose the name of Oskaloosa, meaning "last of Beautiful" in honor of a Creek Indian princess.

The County Commissioners, by May 14, 1844, had chosen the grand and petit jurors for the first term of the District Court to be held July 1, 1844. The courtroom was an unfinished log cabin built by William D. Canfield and located within the present limits of Oskaloosa. The first Court House owned by the county was a two-story frame structure built at the northwest corner of the square and occupied in January 1846.  It was also used for a church, opera house, and Indian dances.  It was abandoned in 1855 and thirty years passed before the first permanent Court House, now located east of the square, was built at a cost of $132,500 and dedicated on February 27, 1886.

Over the years, extensive remodeling has kept this courthouse up-to-date enough to meet the county’s needs.

Coal mining brought the county its first sources of wealth.

During the county’s first years, vehicles were scarce.  The sheriff owned the only buggy.  By 1860 the Western Stage Company was doing a thriving business into the county seat from the river.  The Des Moines Valley railroad reached the county in 1864, and the Iowa Central Railroad in 1871.

The first County Fair was held in the public square on October 23, 1852, and in 1861 the traveling State Fair was held in Oskaloosa.

Sources:
Kay Swanson, Mahaska County Auditor, 2002
Jon Lubke, Mahaska County GIS/MIS Coordinator, 2002

 

Marion County

Date of Origin – 1845

 

 

 

 

 

Some say Marion County was named for a pioneer who was a favorite character among early settlers.  It could also have been named for Francis Marion, American commander in the Revolutionary War.  The popularity of the name is attested by the 17 counties in the U.S. of that name.  Marion County, Iowa, was formally organized in 1845, and Knoxville was chosen as the county seat.

The first courthouse was a log cabin.  In 1856, the people became dissatisfied and decided the county was rich enough to have a new courthouse.  In 1895 the Board called for a special election to replace the 1856 brick courthouse. 

Another new courthouse was proposed in the 1960s but was voted down.  Instead, updating the old courthouse began in 1972.  Today, the beautiful old courthouse has a good sound foundation and an interior full of history. 

The Iowa flag was designed by Marion County native Dixie Cornell Gebhart.  The flag was carried during World War I by local troops and the Iowa Legislature approved it as the state flag on March 29, 1921.

In 1996 an open house with period costumes and entertainment was held to honor the 100th birthday of our Courthouse. This celebration coincided with the sesquicentennial of the State of Iowa.

Source:  Marion County Recorder

 

Marshall County

Date of Origin – 1849

 

 

 

 

 

Marshall County is named in honor of John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

The county was established in 1846 and originated in 1849.  In 1851 Marietta was selected as Marshall County’s first county seat.  A small building, funded through the sale of town lots, was built and used as the first courthouse on September 27, 1853.  The total cost of the building was $508.75.

There were many clashes involving the Browden Guards and citizens of Marietta when there was an attempt to move the county seat to Marshall (Marshalltown).  Eggs, vegetables and water were once even thrown in one of these clashes.  It was not until the Iowa Supreme Court decided in favor of Marshall in 1859 that the clashes stopped.

Following this decision the county seat was moved to Marshall, where a courthouse was already waiting.  This courthouse was built by the Marshall Town Hall Company and the citizens of Marshall, at no cost to the county.

In May 1863 the town of Marshall changed its named to Marshalltown.  This was done to avoid confusion with another Marshall in Henry County.

By the middle of the 1870s the second courthouse was badly in need of repair.  In 1883 a new courthouse was approved  in a special election.

The third courthouse was dedicated on November 18, 1886.  It was constructed of limestone from Marshall County at a cost of $150,000.  There were several attempts to replace this building with a county-city building; all of them failed.  The State Fire Marshall ordered the building repaired or removed in 1973.  At this time the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Friends of the Courthouse Committee, a newly-formed organization, decided to save the building.  A referendum was held and by a vote of 5,399 to 3,550, it was decided to restore the 1886 courthouse.

A $2,695,692 contract was awarded to Metal Structures in the fall of 1975.  An additional $290,000 was spent on architecture fees, moving and rental space for the temporarily relocated offices.

Some of the restoration included the removal of the  16-foot cap of the cupola, installation of elevators, construction of a floor between old main floor and the courtroom floor and new roof was also added.  These restorations were paid through a matching grant-in-aid program from the Department of the Interior, under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
 

Source: Jeff Heil, Marshall County Auditor, 2002

 

Mills County

Date of Origin – 1851

 

 

 

 

 

Mills County, organized and established in 1851 and was named for a young officer from Burlington, Iowa.  Frederick Mills, a Yale graduate and lawyer, was enlisted and commissioned as an officer during the Mexican War from 1846-1848.  He was killed August 20, 1847, leading a charge after General Santa Ana in the Battle of Cherubusco.  In 1851, Mills County was named in memory of this hero.

The first settlement was called Rushville by the Mormons who arrived in 1846.  Coonsville, named after Dr.  Liberius Coons, a Mormon, first doctor and founder of the community, was changed to present-day Glenwood in 1853.

The first courthouse was a small 12' x 20' frame building which was replaced in 1857 by a two-story Georgian Colonial style building.  An addition was made sometime after 1900 followed by the addition of a clock tower in 1910.  This first courthouse served as home to the first newspaper in Mills County as well as a temporary barracks for Civil War troops in 1861.  In 1898, an Iowa company was organized in the courthouse to serve in the war with Spain.  This courthouse continued to serve its community well for the next 100 years. In 1959, it was replaced with the current, more modern building. The building was dedicated on August 29, 1959, amidst much fanfare.

Geographically, Mills County is located very near to the extreme southwest corner of Iowa.  It is bordered on the North by Pottawattamie County, on the East by Montgomery County, on the South by Fremont County, and on the West by the Missouri River.  It is primarily an agricultural area.  Many residents, however, work in industries in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. Mills County boasts a variety of historical sites including a museum located in Glenwood which showcases many tools, implements, and household items of early life in the county as well as many Indian artifacts.  The community of Tabor, which lies partly in Mills County, is the location of a once important station on the Underground Railroad, as well as the home of Rev. John Todd who harbored the abolitionist, John Brown.  The Todd house is preserved and now serves as a museum.   Pacific Junction in the Western part of the county is the Junction for the Burlington Railroad lines from Denver to Chicago and Kansas City to Council Bluffs.

In addition, Glenwood is the site of the Glenwood State Hospital- School, the state operated home and school for the mentally handicapped. Started as a Soldier’s Orphan’s Home in 1866, it was closed in 1876 and the General Assembly converted the orphanage into the Asylum for Feeble Minded Children.  Later renamed the Glenwood State Hospital-School, this became an important part of the lives of the inhabitants.

The 2000 census shows Mills county with an area of 439.67 square miles (3.13 of which is water) and a population of 14,547.

Sources: Beth Sylvester, Mills County Auditor, 2002

 

Mitchell County

Date of Origin – 1854

 

 

 

 

 

Mitchell County was originally part of Fayette County until it was established in 1851 at a winter session of the Iowa legislature. The county was named either after John Mitchell, an Irish patriot and refugee of 1948, or after an early surveyor.

The first settlers of the county were Leonard Cutler and his son. They passed through Mitchell County in the fall of 1851 and returned the following spring to make a land claim. The first families to settle were the families of L. S. Hart and Orrin, his son, who came in the summer of 1852.

The county originated in 1854 and county officers were first elected August 7, 1854. Each newly-elected officer opened his county office in his own cabin until a building could be provided.

Perhaps the most interesting history of the county involves the battle of the county seats. The first county seat was located in Mitchell because it was centrally located in the county, a very important asset at this time. The people of Osage objected to Mitchell and called for an election. In this election Osage won, but the people of Mitchell contested the election. It was rumored that votes for Osage were bought and paid for with merchandise. The two towns now resorted to every trick known to politicians to gain the county seat.

In 1858 Osage agreed to build a courthouse and jail, and give them to the county. At the same time Mitchell built a courthouse and agreed to give it to the county, but it never did.

Later Osage and Charles City joined forces, since Charles City also wanted to be a county seat, of Floyd County. To better locate both cities centrally in their respective counties, Floyd County gave Mitchell County a three-mile strip of territory on the north end of Floyd County.

This controversy was taken to the courts and arguments were thrown back and forth between the two towns. Finally the matter was called up to trial in a adjoining county. The people of Mitchell were not given notice of this and thus failed to appear for the trial. The judge ruled in favor of the town of Osage. Then, in the middle of the night the county records were moved to Osage, before a contest could be filed. They have been there ever since.

The courthouse that Osage built in 1858 is still in use today. Except for a $100,000 addition in 1976, the red brick building is unchanged and has become one of the oldest courthouses in the state.

Originally, the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors was a body of 17; one from each township. In 1875, the Board was reduced to five members. In 1926, the county was redistricted, and the number of Board numbers changed to three.

The first Lieutenant Governor of Iowa, Oran Faville, came from Mitchell County.

Mitchell and Worth counties have the distinction of being the first in Iowa to enter into a joint agreement for the sharing of a county engineer.

Sources:
Biedermann, William H., Brief History of Mitchell County, 1973
Zola Naig, Mitchell County Recorder

 

Monona County

Date of Origin – 1854

 

 

 

 

 

The name of Monona County (701 square miles) is believed to be of Indian origin, but its exact meaning is not known.  The word may mean “Peaceful Valley” or “Beautiful Valley.”  Monona was also said to be the name of an Indian maiden who committed suicide by jumping from a high cliff into the Mississippi River in the belief that her own tribesmen had killed her white lover. Some authorities suggest that the county was named for Monona, a town in Clayton County, at the suggestion of Eliphalet Price, representative from Clayton County in the Third General Assembly. 

The county was established in 1851.  The county’s business was first transacted at the Mormon village called Preparation, in Spring Valley Township, where some of the first settlements were made.  When Ashton (originally called Bloomfield) was named the county seat in the fall of 1854, a log house served as the first courthouse.  Ashton remained the county seat for only four years.

Following an election, county records were removed to Onawa, where a frame courthouse was built during the summer of 1858, at a cost of about $7,000.  Attempts were made from 1861 until 1889 to remove the county seat to Belvidere, Arcola, and East Mapleton, but each contest in its turn ended in favor of Onawa.

A courthouse was built in 1891-1892 by S.E. Maxon and Company of Omaha.  This brick Romanesque building, with gabled roof surmounted by a tower, is located on the same site as the previous courthouse.  A one-story addition was built on the West side of the courthouse in 1967, and another on the East side in 1973.

The old jail was condemned, and Monona County joined with the City of Onawa to construct a law enforcement center, including jail facilities, which was completed in September 1974. 

An annex to the courthouse was built in 1980 and dedicated in 1981.  This annex was built for court facilities.  The original judge’s bench, furniture, and fixtures were restored and are being used in the new courtroom.

An annex to the courthouse was built in 1980 and dedicated in 1981. This annex was built for court facilities. The original judge’s bench, furniture, and fixtures were restored and are being used in the new courtroom. Also an entire third floor of the building was built and now houses the Department of Human Services. And finally, the basement annex was remodeled to house the county health nurses and the magistrate court.

Sources: 
County Recorder Harriet Gray for the county history book commissioned by the Monona County Historical society and published in 1982. 
Benita J. Davis, Monona County Auditor, 2002

 

Monroe County

Date of Origin – 1845

 

 

 

 

 

Monroe County, originally called Kishkekosh County after a Fox Indian chief, is named after the author of the Monroe Doctrine and fifth president of the United States James Monroe.

The county was established in 1843.  When the county was being settled, there was considerable controversy over the location of the county seat. The battle was between the towns of Princeton (now Albia) and Clark's Point (Clarksville). On August 5, 1845 a committee appointed to choose the county seat selected Princeton as the county seat. In 1846 the Iowa Legislature changed the name of Princeton to Albia, because there was already a Princeton in Iowa.

The first courthouse of Monroe County was a small log cabin, which was rented out for $1 a month when court was not in session. This courthouse was 20-foot x 20-foot and one and one-half stories high. The contractor was paid $75 when it was completed in 1846.

This courthouse was used until 1858 when it was replaced by the second Monroe County courthouse. This building was built of brick at a cost of $10,900 and located in the center of the town park.

The present courthouse replaced the second one on October 26, 1903. The original price tag of this building was to be $75,000 but the actual price ended up being $93,000. The Renaissance style building is built from stone and brick. The architect was O. O. Smith and the contractor was James Rowson & Sons.

 

Montgomery County

Date of Origin – 1843

 

 

 

 

 

 

The territory that is now Montgomery County was originally part of the Pottawattamie- Purchase in 1846 and was included in a large county called Pottawattamie in 1847. The General Assembly established the county on January 15, 1851. The county is named in honor of General Richard Montgomery who died at the assault of Quebec in the Revolutionary War.

The first county elections were held in April 1853, and around 18 votes were cast. Prior to this the county was attached to Adams County for judicial and financial reasons. These elections were held at the home of Amos G. Lowe, the first county judge.

A judge of the Sixth Judicial District appointed commissioners to select the county seat of Montgomery County. They selected a site nearest to the center of the county and named it Frankfort, in honor of Frankfort, Kentucky, the judge's hometown.

The first county courthouse was built in Frankfort in 1857. It was a simple wooden-frame structure that covered an area 20-foot x 40-foot and was built at a cost of $1,141.50 to the county. After a contest between Frankfort and Red Oak for the county seat, in which Frankfort lost by only six votes, this courthouse was moved. It was hitched to a team of oxen and towed to Red Oak in the winter of 1865. A blizzard came up, and the men had to abandon the building in favor of shelter. When they returned they had "lost" the courthouse in the snow. It was eventually found, but the "lost courthouse" was a great joke in Montgomery County for many years.

Even after a second story was added to the old courthouse, it was still not large enough for the growing county needs. Two attempts to build a new courthouse failed. The first one was in 1873, and the second was in 1883. Finally, on the third try, the people approved the building of a new courthouse by a narrow margin in the summer of 1889.

The second, and current, courthouse was built in 1890. The contractor failed to complete the building, and after much litigation, the county was found not responsible for the cost of completing the courthouse. When the building was finished, it only cost the county $69,000. At the dedication on the Fourth of July, conservative estimates put the number of visitors present at 10,000.

The nearly fireproof structure is made of sandstone and red brick. It is 91-foot x 72-foot and is 60 feet high, the clock tower extends another 40 feet. This clock tower was a gift of the Red Oak Monday Club. Since 1890 the courthouse has become the centerpiece of Red Oak and Montgomery County.

On July 2, 1981, the Montgomery County Courthouse was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. A brief ceremony and an open house were held.

1984 saw the completion of the elevator to assist the handicapped and elderly with access to all levels of the courthouse. The elevator reduced the double stairway leading to the second and third floors and the basement to a single stairway. The project also included a new entrance on the south side of the building.

Sources:
Inventory of the County Archives of Iowa, Montgomery County, Historical Records Survey, W.P.A., 1941.
Carleen Bruning, Montgomery County Assistant Recorder, 2002

 

Muscatine County

Date of Origin – 1837

 

 

 

 

 

Muscatine County came from the Indian word "prairie."  Muscatine County was established in 1836 and organized on Jan. 8, 1837 with Bloomington (renamed Muscatine in 1849) named as the county seat.  Bloomington’s nickname was “Town of Pinch’em Silly.”  The name Muscatine is said to come from either an Indian tribe, the Indian word for prairie, or an island in the Mississippi River.        

By an Act of Congress, any county could select a quarter section of government land for the county seat at a minimum price of $1.25 per acre.  Muscatine County took the Southeast one-fourth of Sec. 35, T77, R2W; the courthouse now stands near the center of that area. 

Using plans and specifications which cost $200, the Board of Commissioners, in 1840, began construction of a courthouse.  The building was 50-foot x 60-foot, with a portico across the end, and it cost $15,000.  The original courthouse was burned out in 1864 and rebuilt at a cost of $29,000.  No records were lost in the fire, as far as can be determined.

The contract for the present courthouse was awarded by the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 26, 1907.  Six pillars and a porch had to be removed from the old courthouse as there was only two feet separating the present courthouse and the original courthouse.  The new courthouse was constructed at a cost of $150,000, of which approximately $15,000 was for electrical work.  When it came time to move, some of the records were passed from the second floor of the old courthouse out the window to the new one.  Court was first held in the new courthouse on June 9, 1909.

The first jail was ordered built in January 1839 on the Northwest corner of the public square.  The “old” jail that stands across Fourth Street from the courthouse was built in 1857.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the courthouse.  The “old” jail was replaced in 1907 at a cost of $15,000 for the building and $6,000 for the steel cage and fittings.  On November 6, 1990 an 8.5 million dollar bond issue was passed to fund the construction of a new jail on Walnut street west of the Courthouse and Old Jail.  The new state of the art jail was dedicated July 5, 1996.

The cannon on wheels on the Southeast lawn of the courthouse is a Gunfield six-pounder, bronze, smoothbore, made in 1857 by the Cyrus Alger Co., Boston, Massachusetts.  The mortars, mounted on cement pedestals on the Southwest lawn are Howitzer, siege 24-pounders, made in 1849 by the Cyrus Alger Co.  They are pointed South . . . and not by accident!  If you visit some older courthouses in the South you will find their cannons pointed in the direction of us Yankees! 

Prior to World War II, the cannon on wheels was wheeled down to the riverfront each Fourth of July.  The cannon was stuffed with wet newspapers instead of ammunition and fired as part of the annual celebration.

Source:  Leslie Soule, Muscatine County Auditor

 

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