Nathan Edward Goldthwait.

History of Boone County, Iowa (Volume 1) online

. (page 12 of 49)
Online LibraryNathan Edward GoldthwaitHistory of Boone County, Iowa (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

84, range 27, crosses the same, thence west along said line to the place
of beginning; said township to be known and designated as Marcy
Township and to be organized at an election to be held in said town-
ship on the 5th day of April, 1858. March 6, i8i;8.

8. B. McCall,

County Judge."

Marcy Township was named in honor of William L. Marcy, who
was United States senator, from the State of New York, was secretary
of war under President Polk and secretary of state under President
Pierce. In addition to its present boundaries, Marcy Township, at


the time of its creation, contained all of the territory now included
in Beaver Township.

It was reduced to its present boundaries in 1871. The naming of
and giving the first boundaries to Marcy Township was the last offi-
cial act under the county judge system. Marcy made ten townships
then legally established in Boone County.

On the 22nd dav of March, i86n, a law passed the Legislature
relieving the county judges of the power and duties of transacting
countv business and transferred those powers and duties to a board
of supervisors, consisting of one member for each legally organized
township, to be elected by the legal voters of such township. The
first board of supervisors, under this law, was elected in November,
i860, and their terms of office commenced January i, i86r. The
county judge system, with the power to transact county business, was
in existence from r8c;i, a period of ten years. During this time only
two men held this office. S. B. McCall held it from 1851 to i8i;4.
J. B. Montgomery held it from 1854 to 1857. ^- ^ McCall from
1857 to 1859, and J. B. Montgomery from 1859 to 1863.

S. B. McCall laid out and named eight of the townships now on
the map of the county, as follows: Dodge, Des Moines, Worth,
Douglas, Cass, Marcy, Yell, and Pilot Mound Townships. He also
laid out and named four townships which have passed from the map
of the county. These were: Pleasant, Boone, Boone River, and Berrv
Townships. J. B. M(jntgomery laid out and named two townships
which arc still on the map of the countv. These are Union and
Jackson 'I'owiiships. It was also under his official supervision that
the first courthouse in the county was built. Samuel B. McCall
did more official work in the organization of Boone County than any
other man. Next to him, in this regard, comes John B. Montgomery.

Samuel B. McCall was born in the State of Indiana. He moved
to Dallas County, Iowa, in 1846, and to Boone Countv in 1847, two
years before the county was organized. He was the first man to
act in an official capacity in the county, acting as organizing sheriff,
as already stated. He was elected county judge in i8i;i, and re-
elected in 1853. In 1 854 lie was elected a member of the Legislature
by the voters of Boone, Story, Green and other counties. In i8q7
he was again elected county judge. In 1861 he entered the service
of the Union in the Civil war as captain of Company E, Third
Regiment, Iowa Volunteers, where he served three years. He re-
turned to Boonesboro, wiiere he lived until about 1870, when he went


west. For about sixteen years he held a position in the Soldiers'
Home at Santa Monica, California, where he died March 5, 191 1.

John B. Montgomery moved to Boone County in 1851, being
the first Methodist Episcopal minister to permanently locate in
Boone County. In 1854 he was elected county judge to fill a vacancy
of one year, caused by the resignation of Samuel B. McCall, who, as
before stated, had been elected to the Legislature. Rev. Montgomery
was elected for a full term as county judge in 1855, reelected in 1859,
and again in 1861, his final term expiring January i, 1863. He con-
tinued to reside in Boonesboro up to the time of his death, which
occurred late in the '70s.

The names of the first board of supervisors elected under the act
of March 22, i860, were as follows: Almond Stinson, of Dodge
Township; Hiram Bennett, of Des Moines Township; Charles
Weston, of Jackson Township ; Thomas Sparks, of Worth Township ;
C. J. Cassel, of Douglas Township; J. O. Harris, of Cass Township;
Peter Mower, of Union Township; W. H. C. Jenkins, of Marcy
Township; Wesley Williams, of Yell Township, and Peter Shaffer,
of Pilot Mound Township. This first board of supervisors met for
the first time January i, 1861. It was one of the most representative
boards Boone County ever had. This system continued for ten years,
or from 1861 to 1871. There were no changes in the boundaries of
the townships during this period of ten years. The board of super-
visors consisted of ten members in 1861, and went out of existence in
1871, with the same number. It did much work during that time.


In 1864 and 1865 the Northwestern Railroad was built through
Boone County. The citizens of Boonesboro failed to comply with
the requirements of the railroad company, and the result was that
the road ran down Honey Creek to the Des Moines River, thus
leaving Boonesboro out in the cold. This caused great excitement
in Boonesboro, and the friends of the town throughout the county
listened to their wails with feelings of sympathy. Although the first
courthouse had only been built eight years, the people of Boonesboro
at this early date wanted a new courthouse built on the public square.
The railroad company had laid out the Town of Boone, a mile and
a half east of Boonesboro, and the people of the latter town became
very uneasy lest the new town should in some way secure the removal
of the county seat. As the leading men of Boonesboro had influence


with the voters of the county, they circulated a petition, and placed it
before the board of supervisors asking for a special election to vote
a tax to build a courthouse on the public square in Boonesboro, at a
cost not to exceed $5(),0()(:). If this could be done they felt sure that
Boonesboro would continue to be the county seat for many years.
This special election was held on the first Monday in April, 1865.
But contrary to their hopes the proposition lost out, there being 828
votes cast, with 384 for it and 444 against it. This defeat did not
deter the leading citizens of Boonesboro, for with them it was a
vital question.

On the 6th of September, of the same year, they placed before the
board of supervisors another proposition for the people to vote upon
at the October election. This time there were 1,181 votes cast, of
which 713 were for the proposition and 471 against it. There was
great rejoicing in Boonesboro over this result. The new courthouse
was assured, and when built on the public square Boonesboro would
continue to be the center of business, regardless of any rival town
which the railroad might build up. This was the conclusion at
which thcv had arrived and the basis upon which their efforts rested.

The board of supervisors built the new courthouse in accordance
with the vote of the people of the county, completing it in 1868. The
Des Moines Register of December 23, 1868, said : "Boone County has
just completed one of the finest courthouses in the state, at a cost of
$38,000, a special tax having been levied for that purpose."

The Legislature of 1870 passed a law which reduced the board
of supervisors to a number not less than three, nor more than seven,
based upon the population of the counties of the state. The first
board in Boone County, under the new law, was elected in October,
1870, and commenced the discharge of its official duties on the first
Monday in January, 1871. There were three members on the new
board, their names being, S. R. Page, Levi Colvin and Z. J. Vontrees.
At the first meeting of this board seven new townships were named
and established. These were as follows: Harrison Township was
taken ofif the north end of Jackson Township and named in honor of
Cieneral William H. Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, a prominent
officer in the War of r8r2 and who was elected President of the
United States in 1840.

Colfax Township was taken oflf the east side of Worth Township
and named in honor of Schuyler Colfax, a prominent statesman of
Indiana, and at that time vice president of the United States. Z. J.
Vontrees, a member of the board, desired to name this new township


Croy, in honor of Samuel A. Croy, one of its first settlers, but that
gentleman objected to this and proposed that it be named Colfax,
to which the board consented.

Garden Township was taken ofif the east side of Douglas Town-
ship, and was named Garden because of the fertility of its soil, the
beauty of its surface and the high estimation placed upon it by those
who made it their home.

Peoples Township was taken ofif the west side of Cass Township
and the east side of Union Township and named in honor of David
Peoples, the first permanent settler within its boundaries. Mr.
Peoples was a very exemplary citizen and he was the only settler in
the county after whom any permanent township of the county was

Beaver Township was taken ofif the west side of Marcy Township
and took its name from Beaver Creek, which runs through it from
north to south.

Amaqua Township was taken ofif the west side of Yell Township
and Amaqua, the Indian name for Beaver, was given to it. Beaver
Creek runs also through this township.

Grant Township was taken ofi the west side of Pilot Mound
Township. It was named in honor of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who
at the time was President of the United States.

This action of the board in 1871 completed and made permanent
the present seventeen townships of the County of Boone, thus com-
pleting its township organization. The population of the county at
this time was 14,581.



The first governing body established to control the affairs of
counties in Iowa was the Commissioners' Court, adopted as early as
the period when this great state was a part and parcel of Wisconsin
Territory. When Boone County was created, provisions were made
in the organizing act for the election of a board of three commis-
sioners, the jurisdiction of which was almost without limitation under
the law. But the system was time worn and the county had barely
gotten started on its way when it became apparent the days of the
Commissioners' Court in Iowa were numbered. Throughout the
state dissatisfaction arose with the methods of the commissioners in
conducting county affairs and the office was the subject of much un-
favorable criticism in various bailiwicks of the commonwealth. The
Boone County commissioners had no place in the controversy, how-
ever, as their incumbency was of short, but satisfactory duration. In
1 85 1 the Commissioners' Court was abolished by law and by an act
of the Legislature


system was substituted therefor. This court was given equal power
to that of its predecessor in all matters of the county, and coordinate
jurisdiction with justices of the peace.

Ten years' trial of the County Court seem to have been sufficient
for the people to determine that the best means of running the affairs
of the county had not been adopted. It was far from being satis-
factory. Many of the early ta.xpayers claimed that the judge of the
court had altogether too much power and that the general interests
of the communty were continually imperiled. Then the township, or


came to the fore by legislative enactment, and in 1861 the first board
of township supervisors was inducted into office, each township being



represented by one member. This plan prevailed until 1870, when
again the system was changed bv an act of the General Assembly,
which made it optional witli the people whether they elect three or
five members to compose the board of supervisors, provided for in
the previous year. Bomic chose to have a board of three members
and that has been its strengtli m numbers from that dav to the present

When the county was organized tlie offices created by the Legis-
lature for county government consisted of the Commissioners' Court,
commissioners' clerk, sheriff, surveyor, treasurer and recorder, coro-
ner, inspector of weights and measures, prostcuting attornev, probate
judge and clerk of the District Court. In i<S6t; the business of the
District Court had become so great that a new tribunal was created
and designated as the Circuit Court. This court exercised general
jurisdiction concurrent with the District Court in all civil actions and
special proceedings and cxclusixe jurisdiction in all appeals and
writs of error t rom interior courts and had a general supervision
thereof in all civil matters, it also had the power to correct and
prevent abuses where no other remedv was provided. The Circuit
Court also had original jurisdiction of all probate matters. Prior
to the year 1869 the clerk was elected as clerk of the District Court.
When the law went into effect establishing the Circuit Court, the
official duties were circumscribed by both courts. On January i,
I 887, the Circuit Court was abolished ; at the time of its establishment
in 1869, however, the office of county auditor, or business agent, was
instituted. These explanations are rendered so that the reacfer may
consult the list of county officials, which follows, understandingly.
As far as the records show, the name of every person who filled an
office of the County of Boone is here given:


i8(;o. Jesse Hull, John Bovles, fames Corbin; clerk, Reuben S.


i8i;i, Samuel B. McCall; i8i;4, J. B. Montgomerv; i8s7, Samuel
B. McCall; 1859, j. B. .Montgomery; 1865, S. B. Mitchell; 1867,
M. M. King.



With the establishment of the county judge system in t8i;i, it
appears that the office of probate judge was discontinued. The first
and only person to hold this office was David Hamilton, who was
elected in 1849 ^"^ fulfilled the duties as probate judge until the office
was abolished.


1850, John M. Wane; 1852, J. K. Detrick; 1854-56-58, Reuben
S. Clark; i860, James Chapman; 1866-68, H. R.Wilson; 1870-72-74,
Philip Livingston; 1876-78, James Hazlett; 1880-82, J. J. Snell;
1884-86, Robert J. Hopkins; 1888-90, John S. Friedly; 1892-94, S. L.
Spurrier; 1896-98, E. Harner; 1900-02, J. H. Eade; 1904-06, Frank
H. Johnson; 1908-10, Carl Fritz Henning; 1912, D. B. Ashenfelter.


1850, Samuel H. Bowers; 1851, James W. Lacy; 1853-55, P-
Chitwood; 1857-59, William Holmes; 1861, G. B. Redman; 1865-67-

69-71, George Crooks; 1873, J- B. Hurlbert; 1875, Canfield;

1877-79, S. S. Webb; 1881-83, S. S. Webb; 1885-87, Samuel P. Zenor;
1889-91, J. B. Patterson; 1893, S. P. Zenor; 1895, H. C. DeFore;
1897-99, George Garner; 1901-03, Willard Foster; 1906-08, George
E. Hannum; 1910-12, John Reid, Jr.


1850, John M. Crooks; 1851, Reuben S. Clark; 1853, L. J. Dunn;
1855-57-59-61, C. W. Hamilton.


1865, J. B. Hurlbert; 1867, George E. Jones; 1869, A. Downing;

1871, J. R. Epperson; 1873, George E. Jones; 1875, Snell;

1877, W. S. Colvin; 1879, J. T. S. Williams; 1881-83, Joseph G.
Spurrier; 1885-87, Miles Becket; 1889-91, Duncan Grant; 1893-95,
W. D. Moore; 1897, t" fiH vacancy, Bert M. Huntley; 1899, B^ M.
Huntley; 1901-03, S. A. Bengston ; 1906, F. M. Lorenzen; 1908, A.
Henderson; 1910-12, Theodore Duckworth.



1868, A. J. Barklcy; 1870-72-74, J- F. Brett; 1876, Matt Webb;
1878-82, C. A. Ebcrsoie; 1884-86, William Fisher; 1888-90, John L.
Engstrom; 1892-94, (iustaf A. Holm; 1896-1901, C. C. Olson; 1904-
06, J. S. Halliday; 1908, May F. Wells; 1910-12, Herbert C. Sayre.


When the Circuit Court was created in 1869, the office, of county
auditor, or business agent, was instituted. W. C. Harrah was then
chosen and continued in office until 1873, when L. L. Sawyer was
elected as his successor; 1875-77, J. A. Head; 1879-83, l'. S. Boyd;
1885-87, John H. EversoU; 1889-92, F. E. Cutler; 1894-96, M. D.
McCiregor; 1 898-1900, A. M. Burnside; 1902-04, Archie Patterson;
1906-08, E. F. Jones; 1910-12, G. H. Getty.


1850, Wesley C. Hull; 1851, Timothy Wilson; 1852, Lewis Kin-
ney; 1854, James Corbin; 1856, V. R. L. Large.

The office of district attorney was established about this time and
the incumbent's jurisdiction extended throughout the judicial district
in which he was elected. The records do not show that Boone
County furnished a man tor this office. The General Assembly of
1885-86 passed an act abolishing the office of district attorney and
creating the office of county attorney, thereby confining the duties
of the prosecutor to his own county. The county attorney under
the act holds his office by tiie votes of the electorate of the county
the same as any other officers. The first election in Boone County
for county attorney was held in 1886.


1886. J. R. Wiutaker; 1888, O. i\L Brockett; 1890-92, J. R.
Whitaker; 1894-96, A. J. Holmes; 1898-1900, Charles L Sparks;
1902-04, H. L. Ganoe; 1906-08, C. J. Cederquist; 1910-12, Frank


Prior to the creation of the office of couiitv superintendent of
schools, the office of school fund commissioner was maintained and


the duties thereof consisted chiefly in the collection of moneys ob-
tained from school lands and other resources provided for educational
purposes and the disbursement thereof as the law directed. It does
not appear from the records now on file in the county auditor's office
that the office of school fund commissioner was filled in this county
and the first record of a county superintendent of schools is of the
election of 1859, when C. W. Williams was returned as county super-
intendent of schools. The names of his successors follow in the order
of their election: 1861, Levi'Emmerson; 1865, W. T. Harlan; 1867,
H. Selby; 1869, A. E. Simons; 1871-73, T. P. Coin; 1875, T. A.
Cutler; 1877, G. W. Lloyd; 1879-1881, J. H. Chambers; 1883-87,
George W. Ashton; 1889-90, B. P. Hoist; 1890- 1903, R. V. Vene-
man; 1903-1908, R. R. Cobb; 1910-12, Gracia E. Tucker.


1850, Thomas Sparks; 1851, S. C. Wood; 1853, S. C. Wood;
1857, S. C. Wood; 1 859- 1 865, L. Regan; 1867, J. B. Torbert; 1881-
85, A. M. Mullinix; 1887, Curtis M. Kennedy; 1889, Ambrose
Blythe; 1890, to fill vacancy, I. A. Worcester; 1891, I. A. Worcester;
1892, to fill vacancy, G. W. Brown; 1893-1903, G. W. Brown; 1906-
10, H. A. Chambers.


1850, James Hull; 1851, James Turner; 1853, W. L. Pilcher;
1855, James Lacy; 1857, Michael Myers; 1859, West Myers; 1861,
Joseph Barnes; 1867, Lewis Davis; 1881-83, George Doran; 1885-91,
D. N, DeTar; 1893, O. Clark; 1895, D. N. DeTar; 1896-97, Andrew
White; 1899-1903, H. C. Ebersole; 1904-10, J. C. Walker; 1912,
N. M. Whitehill.

At the election of 1904 the question was before the electors to
change the time of elections from yearly to biennally. The proposi-
tion carried and those officials whose oflices would otherwise have
expired in 1905 held over for one year. The first biennial election
therefore was held in the fall of 1906, when a full list of county
officials was elected.


No legislative act has ever affected the interests of the people
of the Des Moines Valley in so great a measure as the act known in
history as the Des Moines River Land Grant; nor has any land grant
made to the state for any purpose created so much excitement and

In the first place it was a great mistake for any one to have sup-
posed that the Des Moines River could have been made navigable by
any process of improvement. The only excuse which can be offered
is the fact that at, and preceding the date on which the grant was
made, there was a greater volume of water in the river than there has
been since that date. All the streams of an unimproved country
contain a larger volume of water than they do after the country is

The Des Moines River Land Grant was passed and became a law
August 8, 1846. Just who it was that formulated this act is not
generally known, but as the act was passed by Congress about four
months before Iowa became a state, the grant must first have been
proposed by A. C. Dodge, who was then the territorial delegate in
Congress. Through his influence, most likely, it was placed before
the committee on territories, of which Stephen A. Douglas was then
chairman, and by him placed on its passage.

The wording of this act was not sufficiently specific to prevent
differences of opinion as to its meaning. The language of the act
first says that the grant was made for the improvement of the naviga-
tion of the Des Moines River, from its mouth to the Raccoon Fork;
and then follows the language defining the grant to be "a moiety in
alternate sections of the public lands (remaining unsold, and not
otherwise disposed of, encumbered or appropriated), in a strip five
miles in width on each side of the river to be selected within said
territory, by an agent, or agents, appointed by the governor thereof,
subject to the approval of the secretary of the treasury of the United



If tlic lanj^Liage defining the grant had been as specific as that
dcliniiig the extent of the improvement to be made, there would
have been no trouble in defining its extent. The failure to fullv
define the extent of the grant brought about different opinions and
different rulings by officers who had to transact the business relating
to the grant.

On the 17th of October, 1846, a little over two months after the
passing of this act, the commissioner of the general land oflice at
Washington made a request of the governor of the territory that he
ap[ioint an agent to select the land under the river grant, giving it
as his opinion at the same time, that the g.rant extended only to the
Raccoon Fork of the Dcs Moines River. This was the first official
opinion as to the extent of the grant ever given. There is not much
doubt that this opinion was sirictly in accord with the original intent
of the grant.

On the 17th of December the territorial authorities designated the
odd numbered sections as the land selected under this soon to be
vexatious grant. This selection included every odd section in five
miles of the Des Moines River below the Raccoon Fork.

I'his was the last act under the territorial government relating
to the river land grant, for eleven days from the date of its passage
the territory was admitted into the Union as a state, and the ter-
ritorial officers stepped down and out, being succeeded bv the state
officers. The state authorities accepted the selection made by the
territorial agent, January 9, 1847, which was the first act done by
the state authorities relating to the business of this grant, though not
the last one by any means.

On the 24th of the February following, the state created a board
of public works and to it was assigned the work of construction and
management of the river improvement, and the care, control, sale,
disposal and management of the lands granted to the state by the act
of 1846.

This board was elected by a majority of the voters of the state at
an election held on the first Monday in August, 1847. It consisted
of a president, secretary and treasurer, each of whom took the oath
of office on the 22nd day of September, 1847. The names of those
on this board were: President, Hugh VV. Sample; secretary, Charles
Corkery; treasurer, Paul Brattain. After filing their bonds and tak-
ing the oath of office on tiic date above named they entered upon the
discharge of their duties.


On the 17th of February, 1848, the commissioner of the general
land office, in an official communication to the secretary of the board
of public works, gave it as the opinion of his office that the river land
grant extended the whole length of the river within the state. This
was the second opinion of this same officer, the last one being the
exact opposite of the first. This ruling was the beginning of the
confusion, misery and woe of this historic land grant.

On the 19th of June, 1848, the President of the United States,
without regard to these rulings, if he knew that such rulings existed,
placed on the market, by proclamation, some of the lands above the
Raccoon Fork. Here were the acts of two officials relating to the

Online LibraryNathan Edward GoldthwaitHistory of Boone County, Iowa (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 49)