Click on the county name below to see the county facts:
Cheap and productive farm land attracted early settlers to the present area of Story County around 1846. In 1853 the county was formed and named after the Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. Story County grew slower than surrounding areas and counties. This was due to the large numbers of lowlands, marshes, ponds and slough areas. These greatly hindered the development of large tracts of farmland and transportation, such as roads and the railroad. For example, early roads were sometimes nothing more than furrows created by sod-breaking teams. They were often muddy and concealed by high grasses, often making travel an adventure.
This is why the railroads played such a big part in the early development of Story County. With more than 6,700 acres of land donated to it by the county, the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad began construction in 1863. By 1864 it had passed through Nevada, reached Ames and had become the furthest western railway terminus in the United States. In the 1870s a North-South route was added to the county by the Des Moines and Minnesota Railroads, later named the Northwestern. It reached Ames in 1874 and Story City in 1877. This rail line gave birth to the towns of Gilbert, Kelly, and Sheldahl. By the end of the 1880s and the addition of two more east-west rail lines, every farmer was within six miles of markets and shipping accommodations.
The first courthouse was built in Nevada in 1856, costing around $1,500. It was a two-story frame building. Ames was also an early contender for the county seat but in June of 1859 the Iowa Agricultural College and Farm were located there, thus making Nevada’s claim to the honor more secure. The first courthouse caught fire and burned on December 31, 1863.
A second similar courthouse was built in its place. The building of a third courthouse was proposed in 1857. Designed by William Foster and constructed of locally made bricks the finished cost was $50,000. It is told that the contractor, J. B. Randall, went bankrupt because of the fine materials, rising cost of labor, and the careful craftsmanship that went into building the structure. Finished in 1877, the three-story building was situated on the town square. In the building was a tower in which school children could climb to see a panoramic view of the landscape. It was later torn down due to safety reasons.
After almost 90 years the third courthouse was declared unsafe, and a modern courthouse construction was begun. The new, Y-shaped courthouse was situated next to the old and cost an impressive $1.2 million to build in 1967. It was dedicated on May 18, 1968 and occupied and operational on August 5.
An old Civil War cannon is present on the front lawn of the Story County courthouse. The Story County cannon has been there since 1901. The cannon, the first built by A. B. Reading and Bro., Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1861, reached Story via the Rock Island Arsenal on January 29, 1901. It was shipped to Jason D. Ferguson G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic). By 1911 the G.A.R. was not too active, and it is speculated that the cannon was donated to the county before the G.A.R. expired.
After a 12.7 million dollar bond issue was passed by the voters, Story County broke ground in the year 2000 for a new Justice Center that houses the Sheriff, Attorney, and Clerk of Court departments, as well as the Judges, the Courts, and the jail. A statue names Lady Justice graces the entrance. The opening dedication ceremony was held June 30, 2002. The Y-shaped building was renamed Story County Administration.
Source: Mary Mosiman, Story County Auditor, 2002
The origin of the naming of Tama County is somewhat disputed. Some authorities say the name comes from Taimah, a Fox Indian Chief. Others say it comes from Taomah, wife of Poweshiek--another Fox Indian Tribe Chief. Still others say the county is named after the Indian Chief Potama or Pottama.
The county was established in 1847 and originated in 1853. In the fall of 1853 various locations were being considered for a county seat. The county officials decided on the present county seat, Toledo. The first courthouse was completed in 1854 at a cost of $1,300. The two-story frame building was constructed by T. A. Graham. In 1866 this building was abandoned and sold.
At this time (1867) the county began its second courthouse. The building, which is still standing in Toledo, is constructed of brick on a stone foundation. The total cost of the building was $22,000, $5,000 of which was paid by the Toledo Court House Association. The three-day centennial celebration in 1946 was heralded as the largest in central Iowa. During this centennial year, James Poweshiek, the great-grandson of Chief Poweshiek, the original chief of the Sac and Fox Tribe, celebrated his 92nd birthday. He was at that time the oldest life-long resident of Tama County and the oldest Indian in Iowa.
There have been numerous attempts to replace the 100-year-old courthouse, but all have failed. In 1978, the courthouse's red brick exterior was sandblasted, the interior remodeled and the plumbing and wiring were replaced. Additional remodeling began in 2000 after moving the offices of Assessor, Auditor, Recorder, Supervisors and Treasurer into a new County Administration Building just north of the courthouse. The remodeled courthouse is now home to all court services including the County Attorney and juvenile probation offices. The 1914 courthouse clock will be restored to its original condition, with the help of community fundraising, in 2003.
Source: John Adams, Tama County Auditor, 2002
Taylor County gets its name from Major General Zachary Taylor, 12th president of the United States.
The county was established in 1847 and originated in 1851. The first county elections were held in 1851, by order of the county sheriff. Only 53 votes were cast in the election of three commissioners, a clerk, judge, treasurer, and county recorder. The first county business conducted was the location of a county seat. A three-man committee was formed to locate the county seat, but nothing was ever done. Eventually the Legislature, on January 14, 1853, appointed a second committee for the same purpose. When a site was located, it was to be named Bedford.
In 1851, Taylor County had a population of 393, and the first county assessor reportedly spent only four days assessing the whole county, was paid $4.00, and the total taxes collected were $62.37.
For several years the county went without a county courthouse. The offices and court were held in the log cabin home of Jacob Ross. Finally, in 1864, the county built its first courthouse in Bedford. The square, two-story stone building was used until 1891, when it was deemed unsafe. At this time the county built its present courthouse.
The $38,810 building was designed by F. M. Ellis of Omaha. The impressive building is made of pressed brick and trimmed with Bedford limestone. The building has many unique aspects, such as fireplaces in numerous rooms and a wrought iron staircase that leads to the back of the courtroom and is still used in 2002 by judges and attorneys.
In 1980, the Taylor County Courthouse was put on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1992, there was a huge celebration! The Courthouse was 100 years old. There were tours, music, demonstrations, food and fun. The Courtyard is 3.10 acres and in 2002, has a gazebo, sheriff’s office and jail, a soldier’s monument in front of the courthouse and a memorial at the northeast corner dedicated to all Taylor County Armed Forces.
There are still many big beautiful trees and sidewalks lined with benches for anyone to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the courthouse and courtyard. Taylor County is very proud of their “Grand Old Lady!”
Source: Inventory of the County Archives of Iowa (Taylor County), W.P.A., 1941
When Union County was formed, the struggle between the North and the South was at its height. When Iowa Legislators met the preservation of the Union was foremost in their minds, and thus the name of Union County was born.
The county was established in 1851. An election was held in Petersville on August 1, 1852, but it was not until February 15, 1855 that a county seat was selected. The site that was chosen was Afton. Two years later a two-story, frame courthouse was erected at a cost of $1,756. This building was also used as a church and a school.
The town of Highland challenged Afton for the county seat in an election. Afton remained the county seat, but by only 15 votes. Highland soon declined, and most of its buildings were moved to Afton.
Following this challenge the county constructed its second courthouse. This building was larger and more elaborate than the first. It was constructed of brick and was enhanced by a large cupola. O. J. King was the contractor of the $25,000 building.
The town of Creston had been established, along the railroad, and it was suggested that the county seat be moved. Creston had built a courthouse and offered it to the county. The smaller city of Afton had nothing to offer and so Creston, following an election, became the new county seat on November 25, 1890. The $22,000, two-story courthouse was used until 1951. At this time the city and county joined forces to erect a modern office building. This $300,000 structure is constructed of concrete and faced with limestone. It houses both the municipal and county offices.
Van Buren County was established on December 7, 1836 and was named in honor of Martin Van Buren, 8th president of the United States.
In the spring of 1837 the first court and county commissioners meeting was held at Farmington. On December 16, 1837, the Legislature of the Wisconsin territory passed an Act changing the county seat from Farmington to Rochester. This Act was vetoed by the territorial governor. At an election held in 1838, the city of Keosauqua edged out Bentonsport for the honor of being the county seat.
Another legislative Act approved on January 25, 1839, required the town to contribute at least $5000 in lots or materials for the erecting of a courthouse, if it wished to remain the county seat. On May 30, 1840, the county commissioners accepted a contract in the amount of $6500 from John Fairman and James Hall to build the courthouse. Sewall Kenny and Henry King were appointed as building agents. On January 7, 1841, the county commissioners rescinded the appointment of the building agents, transferring that responsibility to Edwin Manning, who finished the courthouse at a cost of $6712 in September of 1843.
The Van Buren County Courthouse is the oldest in Iowa and second oldest in the nation that has been in continuous use since its completion in 1843. It is of Greek Revival Style of architecture. Its massive support structure, framing material, and finish trims were taken from nearby trees. The brick was also of local production. At the time of its building, the courtroom on the second floor was the largest auditorium in Iowa unbroken by columns or pillars. Although the 10 foot square tower, which rose 16 feet above the comb of the building and the two walnut circular staircases have been gone for over 140 years, much that remains of the building is original. Major restoration of interior of the courthouse took place in 1981-83, with exterior renovations completed in 1997.
The first legal death penalty in Iowa, the only one in Van Buren County, was handed down in the courtroom in 1845, a case on a change of venue from Washington County.
The subject was found guilty and hanged north of the courthouse in “Hangman’s Hollow” on April 4, 1846.
The walls of the courthouse display pictures of many of the attorneys and judges that practiced in the courtroom. Included in those is a picture of U.S. District Court Judge, Henry C. Caldwell, who was the last judge named by President Abraham Lincoln.
Other buildings making up the courthouse complex include a Law Enforcement Center
located directly north of the courthouse. It was completed in 1993 with an addition added in 1998, replacing an old jail that was built in 1856. The county office building, located directly south of the courthouse was built in 1896, replacing one that was built in 1855 and destroyed by fire in 1896. An annex addition was constructed to the east of the county office building in 1978-79.
Source: John Finney, Van Buren County Auditor, 2002
Wapello County is named in honor of Fox Indian Chief “Wau-ba-law,” “Waupello,” or “Wa-pel-lo.” Chief Wapello was the second-in-command over the combined Sac and Fox Indians.
The county was opened at midnight on April 30, 1843. Eager settlers camped along the county border; and, at the sound of a shotgun, they raced towards the “New Purchase.” Within a month of this settlement, 5,000 people were living within Wapello’s borders.
The county originated in 1844. Three commissioners selected a site for the county seat. It was originally known as Appanoose Rapids, then Louisville. When the settlers arrived, the name was changed to Ottumwanoc, later shortened to the present Ottumwa.
A simple log cabin was the county’s first courthouse. It was not long before it was abandoned in favor of a more suitable building.
The first permanent courthouse was a brick structure that cost an estimated $1,000. This building was used until 1855, when it was sold to the Christian Church.
During the fall of 1881, Wapello County experienced a gold rush. A speculator claimed he discovered gold along Bear Creek. The prices for land and mineral rights soared until an investigation proved the scheme to be a fraud.
In 1855 the county constructed its second real courthouse. This building was also two stories, but twice the size of the previous building. This building was used until 1891. It was then demolished to make way for the third and current courthouse.
In an election, voters approved $100,000 worth of bonds to be used towards the construction of a new courthouse. The cornerstone was laid on September 28, 1892, and it was officially dedicated two years later on May 17, 1894.
Rough cut sandstone was used for the five-story building. A large corner clock tower was part of the original design. In 1950 the clock tower and several chimneys were removed. About 450 tons of bricks were removed to help alleviate stress on the building. At the apex of the building stands an Indian statue representing Chief Wapello.
Source: Phyllis Dean, Wapello County Auditor, 2002
Warren County was named in honor of General Joseph Warren, who died on June 17, 1775 at the Battle of Breed's Hill in the Revolutionary War.
The county was established in 1846. The first county elections were held on January 1, 1849. The organizing sheriff and commissioners were appointed at this election. The commissioners were put in charge of locating a county seat for the newly-formed county.In the summer of 1849 the commissioners set out to locate the center of the county. When they located the center it was found to be in the river bottoms, so they walked on, looking for level ground. They found level ground at the present-day intersection of Iowa Highway 92 and U. S. Highway 65-69. The owner of this land, who resided in Indiana, agreed to sell 80 acres at $10 per acre to the county.
There are many different stories floating around about the origin of the county seat name. One story goes that, after the county seat was selected, the commissioners sat down to lunch. One of the commissioners had his lunch wrapped in a copy of the New York Sun , and, after he was finished, he began to read the paper. One article was about the unloading of camels in the Texas town of Indianola. The name Indianola appealed to the commissioners, and they decided to name the new county seat after the Texas town.
Until recent years that story was accepted. In 1941 the owner-editor of the Record-Herald and Indianola Tribune, Don L. Berry was in Texas. He decided to visit the namesake of Indianola to see what it looked like. The town had nearly faded into extinction. After doing some research, Berry found that the camels did not land at Indianola, Texas until seven years after Indianola, Iowa was all ready named. The article that was about Indianola, Texas was about an outbreak of cholera.
There are currently 17 Indianolas in the United States, of which the one in Iowa is the largest.
The first courthouse was a two-story log cabin that doubled as a church and school. This building was abandoned in 1868. A new courthouse was approved in an election in 1865. Final cost of this building was estimated between $65,000 to $89,000 but the contractor was allowed to collect only $50,211.45 -- the original contract price.
This courthouse was built of stone and bricks with a foundation of sandstone. It was used from 1868 to 1938, when it was torn down.
There were several attempts to replace this building, but all failed. It was not until the Public Works Administration offered $65,250 towards the construction of a new courthouse that anything was done. On August 10, 1938 a proposal to issue $80,000 in bonds for the erection of a new courthouse, plus the federal grant, was approved.
The cornerstone of the third and present building was laid on December 3, 1938; it was officially dedicated on August 24, 1939. The 65-foot x 113-foot building is constructed of brick and Bedford stone. A large crowd of around 18,000 was on hand to celebrate the completion of the building.
In 1988 an addition to the courthouse was built to improve and enlarge the jail and add more office space.
Source: Judith K. Lathrop, Warren County Recorder
Washington County was originally named Slaughter County, after William B. Slaughter, secretary of the Territory of Wisconsin. Residents of the county did not like the sound of Slaughter and therefore changed the name to Washington, in honor of George Washington, 1st president of the United States. The county was established and originated in 1839.
The first county seat was located at Astoria. The only building present in the town was an unfinished log cabin that served as the courthouse. Locating commissioners were appointed to locate a county seat that would be suitable for present day, as well as future, county business. The town of Washington was chosen in the summer of 1839. A temporary courthouse, which lasted eight years, was erected at a cost of $759. It was two stories high, with native oak and walnut used in its construction.A second courthouse was begun in February 1845 and completed in July 1847. It was a small brick building, complete with a center spire. This building was in use until 1868, when it was deemed unsafe and torn down. The county business was then conducted in the Everson's Opera House until the third courthouse was finished in 1887.
This third courthouse cost a total of $75,000 to construct and furnish. It is constructed of pressed brick for the walls and stone for the large basement. It has granite columns and stone for trim, both of which came from Ohio. The courthouse also contains a large 181-foot tower, complete with the former Washington Academy clock. Over the years this clock became worn down and unreliable for the time. The Washington County Historical Society raised the needed funds, with the help of the Carlton "Tug" Wilson estate, to refurbish this 100-plus-year-old monument.
Wayne County was established on January 13, 1846 and was formally organized on February 13, 1851. The county is named after General "Mad Anthony" Wayne, of the Revolutionary War.
Wayne County is unusual in that it is one of the few Iowa counties to have had only one county seat, Corydon. Corydon has had more than one name however. Originally called Springfield, the name Corydon was chosen by County Judge Seth Anderson, who won the right to name the town in a poker game. He named it after his hometown of Corydon, Indiana.The first "courthouse" was built in 1852. It was a hastily built log cabin and was used even before it was completed. The floor was laid down loosely, the walls were not chinked and half of the roof was unfinished. The judge's desk was an old keg, and the jury would go to the slough or ravine to decide cases. This building was used for four years. Then, in 1856, William F. Lancaster and John Davis built a small building to use as a courthouse at a cost of $600. When this building was abandoned by the county in 1871, the business of the county was conducted in various downtown buildings.
Several attempts were made to vote bonds for a new courthouse between 1869 and 1889, but all failed. Around this time the town of Allerton became a contender for the county seat. Finally, with the help of people favorable to Corydon, a subscription was started in 1890 to build a new courthouse. Around $19,000 was raised, and construction began on the new courthouse in 1891. The contractors were E. A. Rea and Alex Mardis. The courthouse was made of red brick that was made and burned at Corydon.
After nearly 73 years of service, the courthouse was declared unsafe by a grand jury. A $450,000 bond issue was approved in September of 1962 by the voters in a special election for a new courthouse. The new courthouse was designed by the architects Frankhiser and Hutchens and was built by Grabau Construction. A ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone was held on August 15, 1964, and the new courthouse was finished later that same year. It is a three-story, modern looking facility and lies just east of the previous one.
Source: Burton, Warren, History Of Wayne County, Iowa, 1956
Webster County is a combination of two counties: Yell and Risley. Late in the fall of 1852, the citizens of both counties petitioned the Legislature to combine both counties into one county; and on December 1, 1852, the Legislature passed an Act that did just that. The county was named in honor of the American statesman Daniel Webster or the indigenous Iowa Indian tribe.
In 1853 a commission was appointed to locate a county seat for the newly formed Webster County, and the site they chose was named Homer. The land was owned by the government, but the county officers took possession of it and had it "run out" into town lots. It was not until October 14, 1854 that the county obtained title to the land.
The first courthouse was built in Homer, and the first court was held in Homer. Homer was a thriving and growing community of 600, so when the smaller community of Fort Dodge challenged them for the county seat, they gave it little concern. An election was held, and Fort Dodge came out on top by 13 votes. Illegal voting and ballot-box stuffing was involved, but records were so bad that the election was never contested.
After the county seat was officially moved to Fort Dodge, a courthouse was needed there. An election was held, and, by a majority of 199 votes, it was decided that a courthouse would be built. The building cost $39,450, and it was constructed by A. V. Lambert of Fort Dodge. The cornerstone was laid on May 8, 1859. The current courthouse was officially dedicated on September 12, 1902.
The 99th anniversary celebration of the Webster County Courthouse on Sept. 14, 2001 marked the end of the two decades and millions of dollars spent to blend the charm of the past with functional requirements of the future. The remodeling project was funded by a tax levy equaling 2 mills or two-tenths of a penny. Courthouse repairs and specification plans began in 1980 when the jail was removed from the courthouse and located in the Law Enforcement Center at a cost of $98,780. The process of cleaning and repairing the limestone exterior of the building was started in 1985 due to reported "popouts" or holes caused by moisture. The copper clock tower was also restored at this time, the outside atrium skylight was replaced and flat or sloped roof areas were replaced. The price of the exterior restoration done within that year totaled more than $300,000.
With the outside refurbished to reflect its original stateliness, the idea of refinishing the inside of the courthouse took root in the minds of county officials. The next four phases of indoor renovation updated and renewed the working spaces of county offices, departments and courtrooms. The cost of the first four phases of renovation were funded with nearly $1.7 million in property tax reserves set aside in the county budget. Each phase was completed between four and eight months, ultimately taking a total of 10 years to be totally finished.The final phase of renovation was aimed at renovating the second and third floors as well as bringing the courthouse into compliance with the American Disabilities Act. This last portion of work contained the most expensive undertakings in the project and was funded by a $2.5 million bond issue approved by county voters in November 1996. The grand total of renovating the courthouse so that it reflected its prestigious past while accommodating its future needs equaled nearly $4.3 million and was a labor that took more than 20 years to complete.
After the completion of the remodeling, on September 14, 2001, Webster County held a rededication of the Webster County Courthouse. The rededication was planned and presented by the Webster County Board of Supervisors, the Webster County Historical Society and the Fort Dodge Dragoons. It was well attended by the public and tours were conducted throughout the day.
Winnebago County was named in honor of the Winnebago Indian tribe that resided in the area. The term Winnebago means "Men of the Bad Smelling Waters," or "People of Stinking Water."
The county was established in 1851. The earliest white settler of Winnebago County was George W. Thomas in 1855. The county was organized in the fall of 1857, the following being the first officers elected: Robert Clark, county judge; C.H. Day, treasurer and recorder; B.F. Denslow, clerk of courts; John S. Blowers, sheriff; and C.W. Scott, superintendent of schools and surveyor.The first and only county seat of Winnebago County is Forest City. Forest City, which was platted by Robert Clark in 1856, was named after the abundance of timber found there.
The first courthouse was a two-room log cabin that was located on the courthouse square. In 1860 a petition was circulated calling for a more appropriate building. Soon after, $20,000 in bonds was sold for the construction of this building. After the construction had begun, the conservative members of the board opposed such an expensive building. Consequently, a less expensive, two-story soft brick building was constructed. This building, like the previous building, was located on the courthouse square. A frame addition was completed in 1877.
This courthouse was torn down and replaced in 1896. Architects Kinney & Orth and contractor F. A. Gross constructed a Romanesque style building made of red brick and trimmed with stone. The building was completed on January 6, 1897, at a cost of $20,496.
Winneshiek County is named after the chief of the Winnebago Indians. Winneshiek was the adviser to the War Chief Black Hawk.
In 1847 the early settlers asked for the organization of the county. On April 7, 1851 elections were held and the county seat was voted upon. The choices of county seats were Lewiston, Moneek and Decorah. The favorite to win was Moneek, but due to voting fraud and lost ballots, Decorah won with only 63 total votes being cast. This election was followed by several other bids for the county seat. Bids came from the town of Freeport, from 1854 to 1856. In 1898 Calmar also made an attempt to gain the county seat, but it also failed.
The first courthouse was completed in 1858 at Decorah. The final cost was approximately $18,000. In 1890 there was an attempt to replace this building with a more appropriate one. After pleading with county officials, it was placed on the ballot in 1898. It was overwhelmingly defeated. On November 3, 1902 it was again voted on. This time the count was 2,580 for a new courthouse and 1,584 against. The voters approved $75,000 for the new courthouse, and one year later they approved an additional $50,000 to complete the already-started project. The cornerstone was laid August 22, 1903, and the new building was occupied in November 1904 and is still in use today. In 1974-75 all new windows were put in the courthouse.
A renovation project was done to the 2nd and 3rd floors of the courthouse in 1990 and 1991 with a portion paid through grant funding. The courthouse was also repainted back to its original colors. In 2000 a new jail was built adjacent to the Sheriff's office.
The original name of Woodbury County was Floyd County, in honor of Sergeant Charles Floyd of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He died of an illness and was the first white man buried in Iowa. Floyd was then replaced by Wahkaw County when the county was established in 1851. The county was established in 1851 as one of 50 new counties organized by the Legislature. The first county seat of Wahkaw County was Thompsonville, a small village set up by the early settler William Thompson. It never really developed and the village eventually disappeared.
Woodbury County became the official name on January 12, 1853 in honor of Levi Woodbury, governor of New Hampshire, U.S. senator and Secretary of Navy and Treasury.In 1853 the Legislature chose the town of Sergeant's Bluff as the first county seat of Woodbury County. The county elections were then held in the home of William Thompson, 17 votes were cast, and the offices were kept in the homes of the officials.
In the spring of 1856 a vote was taken to relocate the county seat. Sioux City, which was platted in 1854, beat out the towns of Sergeant's Bluff and Sergeant's Bluff City.
In 1857 a contract was awarded for the construction of the first courthouse of Woodbury County, but for some reason the contract was canceled, and the county offices remained scattered.
Later in 1857 the county voted to authorize a $75,000 bond issue for a courthouse. The first courthouse of the county was completed in 1858 at cost of $70,000. It was three stories high and was constructed of brick.
This building was used until 1914, when it was decided that the population had outgrown it, and a new one was needed. The county approved more than $500,000 for the new courthouse and later decided to sell the old building and property. The cornerstone was laid on July 10, 1916, and the construction was completed on March 1, 1918. The building consists of Roman brick and granite and is beautifully decorated with sculptures over the doors and on the 157-foot-tall tower rising from the middle of the building. Around $400,000 was spent on the restoration of the building, and in 1973 the building was included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Source: County Board of Education, "Woodbury County Courthouse," 1964
Major General William Jenkins Worth, a prominent officer in the Black Hawk and Mexican Wars, is the namesake of Worth County.
The county was established in 1851 and originated in 1858. Since the beginning of the county, there was a debate over the location of the county seat. The first two rivals were Northwood and Bristol. Their battle became so heated that at one time there was a movement to divide the county.
Originally the thriving settlement of Bristol was the county seat, but the community of Northwood was threatening. Bristol tried to relocate the boundaries of the county, in order to put itself nearer the center of the county. This was an attempt to solidify its position as the county seat. The attempt failed, because after much litigation and contention, Northwood became the county seat in 1863. Following this, the settlement of Bristol, once the largest in the county, vanished.
The first county courthouse at Northwood was a small stone structure that was rented to the county for $3 per month. In 1865 the Board of Supervisors authorized the construction of a courthouse. Total cost of the two-story building was $1,000.
Another county seat battle occurred in 1879. This time the parties were Northwood and Kensett. Northwood remained the county seat after winning the election, 709 to 644. Following this the county built its third courthouse. Local citizens pledged $5,000 toward the courthouse — only $4,594 was used, and land was donated by the county.
This brick building was used until 1893, when it was used as a high school, library, and city hall. Today it stands as the Worth County Historical Museum.
The current courthouse was completed in 1893. The original tower was removed, and the entire courthouse was remodeled in 1938. A Civil War cannon sits on the courthouse grounds as a monument to all veterans.
An addition was added to the courthouse in 1990, which included offices for the sheriff’s department, a new jail, offices for the clerk of court, and a magistrate courtroom/conference room.
Source: Kay Clark, Worth County Auditor
Wright County is somewhat special; it is named in honor of two men -- Silas Wright, 12th governor of New York, and Joseph Albert Wright, governor of Indiana.
The county was established in 1851. Prior to 1854, only hunters and trappers had seen the area known today as Wright County. But in August 1855, the first elections were held in the county, at the log cabin home of S. B. Hewett.The first county seat of Wright County was Eagleville, but this town was a "paper town" and the county seat was moved to Liberty (Goldfield) by election in 1858. The first courthouse of Wright County was a two-story framed building built that same year. It served the county until the county seat was moved to Clarion in 1866.
Due to its exact location in the center of the county, Clarion was chosen as a better site for the county seat. Clarion was originally named Grant, but it was changed to Clarion -- after Clarion, Pennsylvania -- in June 1870. After the removal of the county seat from the town of Liberty (Goldfield), a decision on whether to move the old courthouse from Goldfield to Clarion or build a new one could not be reached. The problem was finally resolved in November 1865, when the courthouse committee contracted Perry & Nees to build a two-story, frame building for $5,600. Due to additions, the final cost of the second courthouse was $5,950.
In an 1890 election the voters approved the building of a new courthouse and jail. When the results were released to the public there was much celebrating done. Some of the residents of Clarion were so excited that they soaked the jail in oil and set it on fire.
The current courthouse was built in 1891-1892 at a cost of $50,000. It is constructed of red brick, and in 1974 it under went an extensive remodeling to the interior and exterior. The remodeling and an addition to the sheriff's office cost $350,000 which was paid with federal revenue sharing funds.
Source: History of Wright County, ed. Hon. B. P. Birdsall, B. F. Bowen and Co., 1915.
This page was last updated 12/28/10