Allamakee co. IAGenWeb


Chapter 12
Past & Present of Allamakee County, 1913

The County Seat, Other Early County Affairs


The County Seat
A volume might be written of the ten or more county seat contests in Allamakee county in the first quarter century following its organization, and it would be interesting to go into the details, although unprofitable from any point of view. Even at this late date, thirty-eight years since the last county seat election, it is a delicate matter to treat of them in such a manner as would seem to all parties strictly impartial, so bitter was the sectional feeling aroused in the early days. Of course the location of the seat of county government at any place was considered a great advantage, and numerous hamlets at one time or another entertained high hopes of securing a lasting prestige thereby. But when the contest narrowed down to the principal towns of the county, the other sections turned in on one side or the other according as they were moved by feelings of local advantage, public weal, or disappointment and revenge, and the contest between Lansing and Waukon became prolonged and bitter, until repeated decisions at the polls settled the question permanently in favor of the present location at Waukon.

In the second general Assembly an act was passed organizing the county of Allamakee, and approved by Gov. Ansel Briggs – the first state Governor – January 15, 1849. Under this act the first election was held – as heretofore stated. Commissioners were also appointed to locate the county seat of said county, consisting of Wm. Linton, John Francis and James Jones and they performed their duty by selecting a location in Jefferson township, about a mile and a half northwest of the present village of Rossville, on the road from there to Waukon, near the Pettit place. It has ever since been known as “The Old Stake.” This selection was never utilized, however, and at the April election of 1851 the question was submitted to a vote of the people, the contesting points being: Vailsville, on Paint Rock Prairie (now Harper’s Ferry), “Smith’s Place, sec. 12,” in Post township, and Columbus, at the mouth of Village creek in Lansing township. As neither point received a majority another vote was taken on the first Monday in may following, between Columbus and Smith’s Mill, Vailsville being out of the contest, resulting in a small majority – 14 it is said – for Columbus. We have no means of ascertaining the number of votes cast; neither do we know how many polling places there were in the county at that time; but if we are not mistaken Reuben Smith’s place (one of the contesting points) was one of these. He stated in the fall of 1877 that a county seat election in ’51 was held in a log cabin of his, and that voters came there from a distance of many miles, of whom he remembered Shattuck and Bush from what is now Makee township among others.

About this time there existed a spirit of rivalry between Lansing and Columbus, which developed into a jealousy on the part of Lansing (which had become an aspiring little town) toward her next door neighbor, and induced her to attempt to deprive Columbus of her honors and the advantages accompanying them. Although Columbus had really no natural advantage which would entitle her to the county seat, except that of a boat landing, her proprietors and their and their friends were too powerful to warrant a direct issue, and so Lansing resorted to strategy, and urged the property of a relocation of the county seat at the geographical center of the county. Of course the settlers in the western portion were nothing loth to enter into this movement, and a meeting was held at Ezra Reid’s, in Ludlow township, December 4, 1852, to consider the matter. Edward Eells was selected as chairman of the meeting, and John W. Remine, of Lansing, and C.J. White, of Makee, were secretaries. The result was that the General Assembly was petitioned to have another point designated as the future county seat of the county. In January, 1853, the Legislature granted the petition, and for the purpose of selecting such point, appointed a commission consisting of Clement C. Coffin, of Delaware county, John S. Lewis, of Clayton county, and Dennis A. Mahony, of Dubuque. The third section of the act establishing this commission, reads as follows:

“Said commissioners shall locate the county seat of the county aforesaid as near the geographical center as a due regard for the present and prospective interests of the county shall appear to them just and proper; they shall also, be influenced by the comparative eligibility of locations, and the convenience of water, roads and building materials as also by the comparative facilities of acquiring for said county suitable building lots, or blocks, of the county seat should be located by them on private property.”

Judge Dean, writing in 1880, narrated the sequence of events thus; “Their commission required them to meet at Columbus, then the county seat, about the first Monday in March following, take the oath of office and proceed to select a point for a new county seat as near the center of the county as was practicable. This they did, and in selecting the spot they took into consideration the place where the original liberty pole was planted at the head of Union Prairie, as mentioned in Chapter 5, Makee Ridge, and some other points; but the absence of water at those places made them objectionable.

“At this time there were several splendid springs bubbling out of the prairie sod where Waukon now stands, and Father Shattuck then living here offered to give the county forty acres of land for county seat purposes if the commissioners would locate the county seat thereon. The stake was driven by them on the land thus donated, and the proposed town site was named at the time, the commissioners requesting Mr. John Haney, Jr., who was present and took an active part in the matter, to christen the spot. He having been a trader among the Indians and having a good friend among them in the person of John Waukon, a chief of the Winnebago tribe, gave it his name and it has been called Waukon from that time.

“The spot for the new county seat having been selected as narrated in the last chapter, it became subject to ratification or rejection by the legal voters of the county at the ensuing April election; and in order to create for the new location as favorable an impression as possible, a mass meeting was called at the selected spot two days before the election, and assembled near where the Episcopal church now stands. This was the largest white assemblage ever seen in the county, there being present nearly three hundred persons. The meeting was organized by electing John Raymond of Union Prairie president, and A. J. Hersey and Mr. Beeman, secretaries. John A. Wakefield, who owned the farm on the Lansing Ridge that Hugh Norton now owns, and John W. Remine, a lawyer from Lansing, Made speeches in favor of the new location; and Thos. B. Twiford of Columbus, the then county seat, against it; after which Father Shattuck drove on to the ground with a large supply of cooked provisions, among which were a plentiful supply of baked beans, and from the wagon fed the multitude of three hundred. “On the following Monday, April 4th 1853, the voters of the county ratified the choice of the Commissioners by a majority over Columbus of two hundred and forty-five votes, there being seven voting precincts in the county.”

That the relocation of the county seat at Waukon was not accepted by the proprietors and friends of Columbus without a struggle, may be imagined. At the first term of District court held at Waukon in June, 1853, Hon. Thos. S. Wilson, Judge, the matter was at once brought up, and we quote from an old file of the Lansing Intelligencer relating to it, as follows:

“A motion was made by Ben M. Samuels, Esq., who appeared on behalf of the proprietors of Columbus, to adjourn the court to that place. The grounds stated for this motion were; first, that the law providing for the relocation of the county seat, was unconstitutional, relying in support of the position, on the 10th article of the Constitution of the United States, wherein it is declared that ‘no State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.’ It was argued that the proprietors of Columbus, by deeding to the county two acres of land under the act of 1851, providing for the location of the county seat of Allamakee county, thereby made a contract with the county, and that the Legislature had no right to pass a subsequent act providing for a relocation. It was further argued that the town of Columbus was a close corporation and had acquired a substantial legal interest in the county seat, and that the Legislature, in passing the original act for the location of the county seat, had an eye to the permanent benefit of the town of Columbus. The act of 1851, authorizing the people to vote on the question, declares that ‘the point receiving the largest number of votes shall be and remain the permanent seat of justice of said Allamakee county, provided that the owner or owners of such town or point, shall, within ten days after the result of said election has been declared, make and execute to the board of Commissioners of said county, a satisfactory and sufficient deed for at least two acres of land in said point.’ Considerable emphasis and reliance were placed on the word ‘permanent,’ which appears in the clause quoted, and it was argued that inasmuch as the word appeared in that act, the Legislature had thereby forestalled all subsequent action with regard to the matter. The other objections which were made, more particularly pertained to the action of the county judge, who, it is well known, had refused to discharge any of the duties enjoined on him by the act of the Legislature. Some other reasons, of minor importance, were adduced, but the foregoing were the most noticeable. Mr. Samuels made quote a pathetic oration in behalf of Columbus (as a close corporation), and spoke in a very affecting manner of her alleged rights.

“The motion was opposed by John W. Remine, Esq., of Lansing, and Jas. Burt, Esq., of Dubuque.
“The court overruled the motion, and gave at length, and in a very plain and clear manner his reasons. As to the objections on account of the unconstitutionality of the act, he said, that the town of Columbus had, in law, acquired no interest in the matter of the county seat, that no contract existed between the proprietors of the town and the county.

“With regard to the word ‘permanent,’ which appears in the act of 1851, he said that the Legislature did not by that word intend to make the act immutably durable – that even if the Legislature had so intended it was an excess of legislation and consequently void. The Legislature could not pass a law and make it impossible to change or repeal the same by subsequent legislation.

“He further said that the duties required of the county judge in the act, providing for the relocation of the county seat, were not discretionary. The District court could compel the county judge by mandamus to perform the duties required of him in the act – that if he refused to reconvey the land and lot spoken of in the act, to the proprietors of Columbus, he could be compelled.”

At the March term of the County court, 1856, a petition was presented, praying that the question of removing the county seat from Waukon to Rossville be submitted to the people, and John T. Clark, prosecuting attorney and ex-officio county judge (Judge Topliff at the time being in temporary suspension pending a suit for official neglect) decided that the question should be so submitted at the April election. A similar petition was also presented in favor of Whaley & Topliff’s Mill, in Center township, and was likewise granted. This made a triangular contest, and Waukon received a large majority over both the other points, the vote being, Waukon 717, Whaley & Topliff’s Mill 314, and Rossville 144.

Early in 1859 a petition was circulated by Lansing for submitting the question of removing the county seat to that place, and her citizens offered to donate suitable lots (Park Block) and erected a courthouse thereon to cost $8,000. At the same time $5,000 was offered by Waukon to aid in the erection of county buildings at that place. A meeting was held at the latter place and a committee appointed, consisting of A. J. Hersey, John T. Clark, L. O. Hatch, W. S. Cooke, A. Hersey, L. T. Woodstock, W. W. Hungerford, J. C. Smith and Jehial Johnston, to select an eligible point on the Mississippi other than Lansing, through which Waukon might transact her shipping business. At a later meeting the committee reported that there was no one point to which they could in good faith pledge their entire support, but suggested that Columbus was the nearest and most accessible point at which to transact river business, provided she would furnish the necessary facilities; and that Johnsonsport was the best point for the transaction of railroad business, provided she would furnish ferry-boat connection with the railroad at Prairie du Chien, and other facilities. On March 7th the petition was presented to the county judge (G. M. Dean) by S. H. Kinne.

A motion was made by John T. Clark that the petition be dismissed on the ground that the court had no power to order an election in April, as the law for the regular April election had been repealed. Messrs. Clark and Hatch argued the question for the dismissal and G. W. Camp and L. H. Howe on the part of Lansing. Judge Dean reserved his decision until the following morning, when he granted the petition and ordered an election to be held on the 4th day of April. The contest was a hot one. It was originated by the most honored and influential citizens of Lansing; and all the means at their command were used on both sides to win the public favor. On the part of Lansing, John Haney and H. W. Houghton entered into bonds to the amount of $15,000 to guarantee the use of Park Block to the county as long as the county seat should remain in Lansing, and a number of her best citizens gave similar bonds for $16,000 that in case the county seat should be removed to Lansing they would expend $8,000 in the erection of public buildings on said block, to be the property of the county so long as the county seat should remain at that place. While on the part of Waukon, seventeen of her most substantial men bound themselves in the sum of $10,000 that in case the county seat should remain where it then was the citizens of Waukon would pay $5,000, to be expended in the erection of county buildings on the land already owned by the county at that place. The verdict of the people was in favor of Waukon by a majority of 420. Waukon, 1,248; Lansing, 828. Regarding this result as the end of controversy, and as evidence of the wish of the people that our donation should be used for the purpose for which it was offered, the county judge, on the 2d of August, 1859, let a contract for the erection of a permanent courthouse (including a jail), at a cost of $13,655, $5,000 of which sum was paid by a transfer of the proceeds of the Waukon bond, and the remainder of which was paid by the county. The contractors were J. W. Pratt and C. W. Jenkins, and the building was erected and completed during the years 1860-61.

Meanwhile the matter had not been allowed to rest, and in February, 1860, petitions were circulated asking for the submission of the question of removal of the county seat to Rossville. A largely signed remonstrance was presented at the same time, defeating the object of the petition, and it was charged that this was accomplished by sharp practice on the part of Waukon interests. Be this as it may, the affair had its unfavorable effects for Waukon in the next contest. The fact is that both sides used some questionable means at times, to attain their ends in these struggles for supremacy.

Again, on the 3d day of December, 1860, a petition was presented to the County court, Judge John A. Townsend, praying for the relocation of the county seat at “the point” between Lansing and Capoli, and an election was ordered, in accordance therewith, on the 8th day of April, 1861. This time one of the points raised was the legality of the contract for the erection of the county building at Waukon without first submitting it to a vote of the people, but this was virtually set at rest by an opinion expressed in a letter from Hon. Milo McGlathery, district attorney, in reply to questions submitted by Moses Hancock, then chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

However, a certain effect remained, which, together with the combination of Columbus with Lansing, a bond entered into by their people to erect a courthouse at “The Point,” without expense to the county, and the dissatisfaction of Rossville people resulted in a relocation by a vote of 1,257 for the Point, against 1,231 for Waukon – a majority of 26 votes, and the county records and furniture were immediately removed to that place.

Believing that this combination of circumstances would not operate a second time, the people of Waukon the same year circulated a petition for the removal of the object of controversy to the new building at Waukon, and it was presented to the Board of Supervisors, October 14, 1861, and another election ordered to be held in April, 1862. Again was the ground hotly contested, and again was “The Point” victorious by a majority of 22 – that place receiving 1,332, against 1,310 for Waukon.

One more, in 1864, Waukon decided to make an effort to regain the seat of justice, and the contest waxed hotter than ever before. At this time there was a project to build a railroad up the valley of Paint creek, by the Prairie du Chien and cedar Valley Railroad Company, and a great deal of sport was made on this “paper railroad” on the part of Lansing people, who declared it to be an electioneering dodge to make votes for Waukon. In June the Board of Supervisors ordered an election to be held at the time of the general election, November 8th. Again the fight was very close, and when the board met to canvass the returns, the result was found to depend upon Franklin township, from which no record of the vote had been received, so the canvass was made without it. Giving “The Point” a majority of 69 – 1,205 for “The Point” and 1,136 for Waukon, and the matter was carried into the District court, E. H. Williams, judge. “The Point” took a change of venue to Delaware county, and when the decision there was rendered adversely to their interests, appealed to the Supreme court, by which it was not decided until 1867, when it was adjudged that Waukon was rightfully the county seat, and the records were once more removed to that place, where they have since remained.

The records and all portable property were transferred on the 3d to the 6th of September, 1867, and the officials took up their duties in the new courthouse on the latter date.

Pending this decision, in June, 1866, occurred the attempted removal of the documents from Lansing by Sheriff Townsend and a posse of about thirty men from Waukon, which created a great deal of excitement at the time, and has since been a prolific topic for good natured raillery. After the case had been heard before the District court in Delaware county, decision was rendered in favor of Waukon, and a writ of mandamus issued, ordering the board to count the vote of Franklin township – the returns having been obtained – giving Waukon a majority of 23 votes. Whereupon the board appointed Sheriff Townsend as a committee to remove the records, which he proceeded to do. Meantime Lansing had taken an appeal to the Supreme court, a writ of supersedeas was issued and served upon the board June 7th, only eight of the eighteen members accepting such service, however. The sheriff received no orders countermanding his authority to remove the records, and early on the morning of June 9th the “raid” was made.

In writing of this in after years T. C. Medary, then publishing the Lansing Mirror, says in his Waukon Democrat:
“They arrived at the courthouse in Lansing between 8 and 9 o’clock in the morning before the several officers had fairly settled down to business for the day, and making their business briefly known with but very little ceremony, proceeded at once to take possession of the contents of the several offices. Of course it did not take many moments to get the news of what was going on circulated through town and the wildest excitement was created. Darwin Shaw mounted his little cream colored pony and galloped him through the streets, arousing the patriotism of Lansingites, and it was but a short time before at least a hundred men, and not a few women, were on the spot to see the sport. The gathering of the clans seemed to have frightened the raiders and they were even more excited than the Lansing crowd was, and they did their work so bunglingly that the official papers and books were scattered all through the courthouse and out in front, and the wagons were driven off only partially loaded. Lansing promptly turned out a large posse to recapture the county property, and then began a lively chase after the fleeing Waukonians. While this was going on we issued extras from the old Mirror office and distributed them about the city;
“Lansing, June 9, 9 A. M.”

“A messenger just arrived from South Lansing reports a large band of guerrillas, led by Corporal General Townsend, entered that town about 8 o’clock this morning, and took possession of the courthouse, and proceeded at once to carry off the records of Allamakee county. They met with strong opposition among the county officials, but the raider forces were too strong and the officials gave way. Treasurer Healy was assaulted by one of the raiders, a brave officer who during the late rebellion rose to the position of colonel. The treasurer repelled the assault, and with his fist wounded the valorous colonel in the short ribs. The raiders finally succeeded in capturing the records and beat a hasty retreat.
“9:05 A. M.”

“Lansing regulars called out, Lieutenant Generals White and Shaw in command. Transportation furnished and troops in pursuit of the raiders.
“10 A.M.”

“A gentleman just from the front says the Lansing regulars are closing up to the raiders and will soon have them surrounded. No chance for escape.
“10:25 A. M.”

“Another dispatch from the front says that the raiders have been overtaken near Milton.

“General White and Shaw formed their forces in line of battle, threw out flankers and advanced steadily upon the retreating column, whose advance had met a sudden check in the town of Milton. The command was given for a charge when the whole line moved off in fine style, descending upon the forces of Corporal General Townsend with ‘one foul swoop’ and putting his whole command to flight. They abandoned wagon train, captured property and everything of value. Many prisoners were taken, but were immediately paroled upon their forking over all county papers in their possession.
“11 A. M.”

“The regulars have just returned, bringing with them the stolen property. They were enthusiastically received by the citizens. Hats were thrown skyward, handkerchiefs were waved and lager quaffed. Quiet is again restored, and the county seat remains at Lansing!

“The tables were turned, however, in after years, and it became Waukon’s turn to laugh while Lansing grew rather somber visaged and has not fully recovered from it to this day, as the outgrowth of Waukon’s final triumph in securing and retaining the county seat. Of course we, as publisher of a Lansing paper, did our level best for her interests, as we would have done for Waukon had we been located here then; yet our subscriptions among those who stood for Waukon held up remarkably well, probably because they wanted to see how confounded mean we could be in the fights!

“The feeling was so intensely bitter on the part of Waukon that many of the citizens would hardly admit there was such a place as Lansing, and they ignored that town almost entirely in a business way. We remember of a large delegation coming down from Waukon one time during a county seat struggle to attend a republican county convention, and taking their dinners and feeding their horses out in the brush around the courthouse. So, Too, this feeling predominated in the election of county officers of both parties.”

Another account of this episode we obtained recently from an eyewitness in the person of Mr. Geo. H. Bryant, a Lansing resident at the time, who came to Waukon in 1877 as county treasurer, and has been a resident here ever since. Asked for his recollections of the affair, he writes:

“At the time of the county seat raid I was employed by the saw mill company, D. L. & S. V. Shaw, at Lansing. Early one morning I was on the top of a high pile of lumber in the yard and saw teams coming around the bluff just south of the courthouse. They drove rapidly to the courthouse and the men jumped from the wagons, ran inside, and began to bring out the records and load them into the wagons; and as fast as loaded started them off for Waukon. In the mean time I reported what was going on to the Shaws and E. R. Jones, who started their teams and about fifty men after the raiders, while I went over to town to report, and in a short time Lansing had a force at the courthouse and on the road who made short work of convincing the invaders that they had better return the property they had started with, and that when the court had settled the matter, if in favor of Waukon, they could then come in a honorable way and remove the records. This hasty action on the part of Waukon aroused such a sentiment in Lansing that they placed their cannon in the rear end of the hallway of the courthouse, heavily loaded with powder and shot, in charge of R. G. Edwards, with positive instructions to shoot if the raiders appeared again. In those days Lansing had no communication with the outside world except by steamboat or stage, and Waukon by stage only.”

But again Lansing returned to the attack, and in August, 1868, S. V. Shaw, Israle Bequette, and J. M. Rose published a notice in compliance with law that at the next September session of the Board of Supervisors a petition would be presented asking that another election be ordered between Lansing and Waukon. The board met on the first Monday in September as usual, but it was thought that all the business necessary might be transacted in a short session, as, owing to the pressure of “fall work” it was the wish of some of the farmer members to be at home again as soon as possible. Accordingly a committee on school house tax levy labored a good share of that night to prepare their report, and Tuesday forenoon the remaining business at hand was transacted and board adjourned sine die, by a vote of twelve to three, there being three of the eighteen members absent. Later in the day the Lansing petitioners put in an appearance, but the board having adjourned no election could be ordered that year. A bit of strategy doubtless justified by the saying that all is fair in love and war.

Early in the spring of 1869 the contest was reopened and waxed warm from the start. A petition for an election was widely circulated, as was a remonstrance to the same, and each party charged the other with obtaining many illegal signatures. At the June session of the board, on the first day, the petition was presented and referred to a committee, and on the following day the remonstrance appeared and was also referred, and was to outnumber the petition by 86 names – 2,122 on the remonstrance and 2,036 on the petition. A majority report of the committee was made by D. Dickerson, J. S. Deremo, Jeremiah Leas, and S. F. Goodykoontz, stating their belief that a large number of signers to the petition had also signed the remonstrance, which would swell the majority of the latter over the petition by 150 to 200 names, and therefore recommended that no election be ordered. A minority report by G. Kerndt, S. H. Haines and William Yeoman, was also submitted, representing it as their belief that the petition contained a majority of the names of the legal voters of the county, and that they were in favor of allowing the people to express themselves at the pools. After some close work the minority report was adopted and an election ordered by a vote of ten to eight.

One recourse was left to the Waukon managers, and proceeding to Decorah they laid the matter before Judge M. V. Burdick, who granted an injunction restraining the board from taking any further steps towards holding such election, until permission should be granted. In the District court a petition was filed asking for a writ of Certiorari, commanding the board to certify to said court a record of its proceeding relating to the county seat, which was granted, and a special terms appointed for July 7th for a hearing in said case. At the time appointed the case was heard and judgment rendered annulling and setting aside the order of the board for an election. The defendant appealed, but after the election the previous decision was affirmed, at McGregor. Meanwhile, when the Circuit court sat, in July, the injunction was dissolved and the election was held as ordered, October 5th, resulting in a majority of 254 for Waukon – 1,544 to 1,290.

After this decisive quietus, there was a lull in the county seat war for six years, when, at the June session of the board, 1875, a petition was presented containing 1,906 names, and another election was duly ordered to be held at the general election in October. During this summer was begun the construction of the Waukon and Mississippi Railroad. Realizing that it was “now or never” with her, Lansing massed her forces for the final conflict, and the campaign was pushed vigorously on both sides, resulting in the largest vote ever cast in the county, and a majority of 340 in favor of Waukon, she receiving 2,145 against 1,805 for Lansing. It has been generally accepted that the reason for this large vote was a sudden increase in population of the townships bordering on adjoining counties, on all sides, and the practice of “repeating” indulged in at both Waukon and Lansing and “winked at” by those in authority; a practice that it is hoped would not be tolerated in these latter days of an enlightened public conscience, even in a county seat election.

Other Early County Affairs.
The earliest entry in any of the county records now preserved in the courthouse appears in a book of naturalization of aliens, as follows:
“State of Iowa, Allamakee County: “Be it remembered, that on the 9th day of July, A. D, 1849, Patrick Keenan, an alien, has this day filed in this office his declaration to become a bona fide citizen of the United States, took and subscribed an oath required by law.” “Stephen Holcomb.” “Clerk of the District Court.”

Nothing appears to indicate where the office of the clerk was situated.

The county seat had recently been located at “The Old Stake” on the prairie near Rossville.

The first marriage record is as follows:
“Be it remembered, that upon the 23d day of November, A. D. 1849, that a license was issued from this office authorizing any person qualified by law to solemnize a marriage between Elias J. Topliff and Anna Reed.” “Stephen Holcomb” “Clerk of the District Court.”
“This certifies that on the 6th day of December, A. D. 1849, I, Grove A. Warner, a Justice of the Peace, united the above named Elias J. Topliff, aged 22 years, and Anna Reed, Aged 18 years, in the hold bonds of matrimony.” “Witness my hand at Allamakee County this 6th day of December, A. D. 1849. “Grove A. Warner.” “Justice of the Peace.”

Upon the establishment of the County court in 1851, Elias Topliff being the first county judge, the first entries appear thus:
Minutes of the County court commenced and held in the town of Columbus, the 18th of September, 1851, by Elias Topliff, county judge.

It appearing to the court that no tax has been levied for the year 1851, it is therefore ordered by the court that the following tax be levied and collected, to-wit:
For state revenue 3 mills on a dollar, and for poll tax 50 cents; for county tax, 6 mills on a dollar; for tax for support of schools, 1 mills; road poll tax, $2; road property tax, 1 mills.

At the October term, 1851, an order was made for a special election, to take place November 18th, to decide whether a tax be levied to raise $250 for the purchase of suitable books for the use of the county, and a county seal. At such special election all vacancies in the several township offices were to be filled.

At the November term, on motion of A. J. Ellis, W. C. Thompson was appointed a commissioner to view the location of “Road No. 2,” proposed to be established from near Thompson’s place in Lafayette southwesterly, “crossing Paint creek at Riley Ellis’ grist mill, thence southward to W. F. Ross’s on the divide between Paint creek and Yellow river, thence on the nearest and most practical route to Esquire Sutter’s, south of said Yellow river, thence southward to county line between Allamakee and Clayton counties,” and report to the court. Mr. Thompson reported unfavorably at the following January term, and another route was eventually adopted. It was while on this prospecting tour, and not expecting to meet any white inhabitants except at the points mentioned, that Mr. Thompson ran across Reuben Sencebaugh, who had erected a log hut and was hard at work making a “clearing” in the heavy timber. He staid over night with him, and tried to persuade his host to abandon his attempt to make a farm in the woods and take a claim on the prairie where there was an immense “clearing” already prepared by nature, but Mr. Sencebaugh was too used to a wooded country to act upon his advice. He also discovered J. C. Smith, over the Yellow river valley, and related how pleasant it was to meet a white man in those days when the settlements were so scattered.

At the December term, 1851, Thos. B. Twiford was appointed to view proposed road No. 3, “beginning at Columbus and running thence up Village creek to the forks of said creek, thence by the most practicable route to George C. Shattuck’s, thence to the county line at or near James Cutler’s.”

At the same term, December, 1851, Ezra Reid was appointed to view proposed road No. 4, from a point “at or near where the state road from Paint Rock to Fort Atkinson crosses the west line of the county, thence east bearing north to the schoolhouse in Ezra Reid’s district,” thence north along the center of sections to intersect the Lansing road. This description raises a point not heretofore considered in the historical sketches of the county. It has been generally admitted that the first school in this part of the county was on Makee Ridge two miles north Waukon, in the year 1852-3, but here is a reference to “the schoolhouse in Ezra Reid’s district,” in 1851. Ezra Reid’s place was in section 1, Ludlow township, two miles southwest of Waukon; and it would appear from this that Ludlow is entitled to the honor of one of the earliest public schools in the county, perhaps second to that near Hardin in ’49.

Warrant No. 1, for $16,000, was issued December 2, 1851, to Lester W. Hayes “as sheriff of this county for summoning a grand and petit jury.”

Warrant No. 2 was issued to Wm. M. Smith, for 3 days as chain carrier in laying out a road from opposite Monona to the old county seat, in June, 1850, at $1.25 per day; and two days as clerk of election in Franklin township on the first Monday in April and first Monday in may, 1851; amount of warrant, $96.37 .

Warrant No. 3 issued to James C. Smith for like services. It was at this May election that the county seat was located at Columbus.

At the January, 1852, term the account of James Stephenson was presented for $5.00 “for services as juror at October term of district court.” Also a like account of Nelson Shattuck, for $4.00. the accounts were allowed and warrants Nos. 7 and 8 issued in payment. And at the February term, 1852, of County court a warrant for $5.00 was issued to Hiram Jones “for services rendered as a juror at the October term, 1851.” These items, with that of L. W. Hayes above mentioned for summoning jurors, would show that there was a term of District court held in the fall of 1851, but as elsewhere stated there is no record of any such term now to be found.

The above mentioned county warrants, beginning with No. 1, were not the first orders on the county treasury, but evidently a new series begun with the advent of the county judge system. Mr. A. M. May now has in his possession orders No. 1 to No. 7, of which we are permitted to copy:

Order No. 1 “State of Iowa, “Allamakee County, ss to wit: “the Treasurer of Allamakee County will pay Joseph W. Holmes or bearer $2.50 cents out of any moneys in his hands for services rendered as County Commissioner this 10th day of August A. D. 1849. “D. G. Beck, “Clerk of the Board of Co. Coms”

Order No. 2 reads: “State of Iowa, “Allamakee County ss to wit: “The Treasurer of Allamakee County will pay Joseph W. Holmes one dollar out of any moneys in his hands for three quires of paper for the Clerks office of the District Court this 14th day of August A. D. 1849 “D. G. Beck, “clk of the Board of Co. Com”

These orders were assigned by J. W. Holmes to one J. Jennings by endorsement October 1, 1849. they later came into the possession of Hiram Francis (of whom mention is made in the old mission chapter), who presented them for payment but the Board of Supervisors would not allow them. Mr. Francis gave them to Mr. May over twenty-five years ago.

At the January term, 1852, the county officers presented their accounts and were allowed pay as follows:

E. Topliff, County Judge, to January 1, 1852…………………………..58,77
Jas. M. Sumner, Recorder………………………………………………58.77
Thos. B. Twiford, District Clerk (for seven months)……………………64.92
J. W. Remine, Prosecuting Attorney……………………………………15.00
Jas. M Sumner, County Commissioner………………………………...15.00

Jas. M. Sumner submitted a statement of his accounts as Treasurer and Collector as follows:

Whole amount charges
State tax…………………….$195.23
County tax…………………...497.96
School tax……………….…….97.61
Road tax…………………...…527.61

Amount collected to this time
State tax………………………$97.21
County tax…………………....232.43
School tax…………………..….48.60
Road tax………………………..96.60

The report was filed for examination at the next March term.

At the July term, 1852, the county officials were allowed a small “salary-grab,” the entry appearing”

“It appearing from the census returns of 1851 which have recently been produced by the Sheriff that the population of this county on the first day of August, 1851, was 1,117, it was adjudged by this Court that the salaried county officers were entitled to receive $200 per annum instead of $150 as had been hitherto supposed; consequently it is ordered that they be permitted to draw upon the county for as much as will bring their salaries to the legal allowance of $200 per annum.”

At the April term, 1852, a warrant was issued to O. S. Conkey for services as a deputy county recorder. D. W. Low resigned as deputy assessor May 7th; John Sutter appointed deputy assessor by Sheriff Hayes. At the August term, 1852, T. B. Twiford was appointed deputy assessor by Sheriff Thompson. Who was the county assessor at this time we have been unable to ascertain. We find several references to a deputy assessor, and at the July term, 1853, “Assessors all present but those of Taylor, Fayette, and Paint Creek townships.” In the election register we find that John B. Sutter was elected county assessor at the April election, 1857; but this is the only record in any shape, of such an election.

September 14, 1852, “petitions were presented by P. P. Cady, John S. Clark, Benjamin Clark and Thos. B. Twiford, asking to be discharged from their liability on the official bond of James M. Sumner, as recorder and treasurer of Allamakee county, and the court being satisfied that the petitioners had good ground of apprehension, ordered that a notice be served on the said James M. Sumner requiring him to file new bonds by the 25th day of Sept., inst., of his office would be declared vacated.” What these grounds of apprehension were will sufficiently appear from the fact that one of the very first indictments found by the grand jury, at the first term of District court, at Columbus, July 12, 1852, was against Jas. M. Sumner, for willfully neglecting and refusing to make report, etc., and it was ordered that process issue against defendant, returnable at next term of court.

On the 23d of September, Sumner saw fit to resign his office, and the vacancy was shortly after filled by the appointment of James Bell, who held the office but a few months and later went to Tennessee.

On the 26th day of November, 1852, an order was made that notices should be issued as follows:
“Notice is hereby given that a contract for building a courthouse on the County square of Allamakee county, in the village of Columbus, in said county, will be let to the lowest bidder on the fifteenth day of December next, at ten o’clock, at my office in said village. Approved securities will be required for the faithful performance of said contract. Sealed proposals will be received until that day. Any person wishing said contract will be furnished with a plan and specifications of said building by calling at my office.”
“Given under my hand this 26th day of November, A. D., 1852.”
[Signed] “Elias Topliff,”
“County Judge.”

On the day specified the contract was let to Thos. B. Twiford, with W. C. Thompson and J. M. Rose as security, his being the lowest bid with security. The amount of the contract is not stated. The following spring the county seat was relocated, at Waukon.

The county farm comprises the southeast quarter of section 8, Makee township, and an eighty in section 17. The tract in section 8 was the site of the first log cabin anywhere in the central part of the county, built by Patrick Keenan and Jas. Cassiday in 1848, Mr. Keenan having made the selection in 1847, the first settler in this region. Joseph Burton later became the owner of this land, and in 1856 built a large and substantial frame house thereon, 29 by 37 feet in size, to which he added one ell 14 by 16 and another about 15 feet square. Mr. Burton sold this property to the county in October, 1866, for $4,000, and the building was raised to full two stories. January 23, 1880, this house was destroyed by fire. A temporary building was erected for the accommodation of the inmates, until a substantial brick structure was built in 1881, 38 by 40 feet, two 10-foot stories, heated by furnace, at a cost of about $5,000. It was built from the proceeds of a special tax of one mill on a dollar voted by the people at the general election in 1880. Other buildings have since been erected from time to time as the growing needs of the unfortunates required, until now, with its modern conveniences, waterworks and fire apparatus, it is in all respects a model establishment of its kind, and for the past several years its affairs have been ably managed by O. A. Dixon, the present steward.

The county jail is situated on the county square in Waukon, a short distance south of the courthouse, and was erected in 1882 with the proceeds of a special tax of one mill voted in 1881, at a cost of $10,000, to which considerable amounts have since been added for modern improvements and safety. The building is 74 by 33 feet, which dimensions include the two-story sheriff’s residence in front. The contractors were Samuel peck & Sons, masonry, $3,000; A. J. Rodgers, Carpentry, $3,000; and Diebold Safe and Lock Co., steel work, #3,400; and the Ruttan Furnace Co., heating plant, $600.


~transcribed by Lisa Henry

Return to 1913 Index