IAGenWeb Project

Audubon County


By Arnold Spencer

Audubon County was born April 2, 1855; sired by courageous pioneers seeking homes in the west and damned by a bounteous Mother Nature who provided the garden spot of the world for its nurture. No similar political division in all the world has so great a percentage of land subject to cultivation as does this county. Its percentage is the highest of all the counties in Iowa and Iowa is unquestionably the most tillable state in the world.

Before settlement in Audubon County, it had been known to early travelers in western Iowa. It was head-waters, of definite streams which had run on far along the deep rich soils formed of the eastern foot-hills of the great aerial drifts east of the Missouri River extending to the middle of the State of Iowa. This soil had been picked up by prevailing winds eastward until vegetation along with the Missouri River began to catch and hold it.

Annually, with the return of the growing periods, the depth of these dust ridges grew into what was called from the earliest times, bluffs. The lighter particles of this dust being carried over and beyond to the eastward formed the vast zones later to be added to and cut by the waters into the extensive and valuable mid-western Iowa region.

This fertile and valuable country had not been included in Iowa when it was proposed to form a state. Through the extension of the old western boundary of the State of Missouri northward into Minnesota, it was left with the remainder of the now western Iowa as part of the supposed desert of the Missouri Valley.

One of the younger counties of the state, it was first settled by Nathanial Hamlin, who built his home on the stage route between Des Moines and Council Bluffs, where it was a famous overnight stop. His original log cabin home has been removed to the city park in Audubon where it is still preserved.

In 1878 the Rock Island railroad extended a branch from its main line through the state northward into Audubon County, terminating it at the now present town of Audubon. Earlier organization of the county had placed the county seat at various places, and at the time of the extension of the railroad had located it at Exira. After the usual battle for the location of the seat of county government common to a newly settled country, the final location was made in Audubon.

Early settlers of the county were largely from the south, Kentucky in particular. Chronicles of early days tell of feuds and shooting that are legendary of the section they come from, but with the advent of the railroad and the flood of settlers who came with it, the days of the hunter and the feudist disappeared.

No longer did the elk, the deer, and the bear hold their undisputed range of the prairie. The Indians disappeared and the land turned from free open range to fenced and cultivated farms.

One inevitably encounters names which must be familiar to every Audubon County man or woman born or reared there in or after 1860. The names of Hamlin, Jenkins, Huntley, Wadsworth, Bowdish, Harrington, Hoggard, Seifford and Ballard, as also scores of other families are as inevitably encountered as are their names fixed upon the groves, springs, and streams of the entire townships.

Promoters hired by the railroad boomed land sales and established grain markets whereby the pioneers could reap the benefits of breaking the sod and producing crops. Corn cribs a mile in length were built along the railroad sidings, and lands classed as fourth rate grazing by the surveyors for the federal government in their survey before the organization of the county have made men rich.

Settlers who came with the advent of the railroad were mainly from Denmark, particularly those who settled in the western part of the county. They brought with them the culture of the homeland, and the desire for education. The school system of Audubon County was put on an intensive schedule from the beginning, and the results have shown. The children of those pioneers went to high places in educational circles, and their grandchildren have gone to even higher ones. From the schools of this county have come teachers, county superintendents of school, college professors, heads of University and college departments, and even college presidents. Some of them rank at the top of their profession and there is no doubt that but what Audubon County has furnished more than its share to the education of the whole United States.

These same Danish settlers brought with them the ideas of cooperative marketing. They established creameries, owned by themselves, to take the product of the livestock that must follow pure grain farming. Small creameries sprang up here and there, some to come to no good end, and others to be exceedingly prosperous. Through consolidations mainly on account of improved roads and transportation and the other contributing factors there are but three of these creameries left, but they do an enormous business. Audubon County ranks high in the state in the value of its dairy products due to the folks of that nationality.

As well as the development of the dairy industry these settlers were responsible for the introduction of poultry, beef and hog feeding, to such an extent that the mile long corn cribs have disappeared, and the produce of the county goes to market on the hoof almost exclusively.

Audubon County has never been prolific in its production of political figures of importance, other than being the home of two congressmen from this district. It is a purely agricultural community, even going so far as to produce two national cornhusking champions in succession and a national health championship with one of its 4-H club girls.

The people of Audubon County have always been progressive. It was one of the earlier counties in the state to complete the paving of its primary roads and to date have accumulated a modern and up-to-date new courthouse, a new post office building in Audubon, and throughout the county are some of the finest farm homes and buildings of the state.

Transcribed for Audubon County February, 2012, from The Iowa Press Association's Who's Who in Iowa, A Biographical Record of Iowa's Leaders in Business, Professional and Public Life (1940), pp. 64-65.

NOTE: This book contains a 1940 copyright notice, but no evidence could be found that the copyright was renewed. Accordingly, the copyright is presumed to be expired and the book in the public domain. Sources checked: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/cce/, https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain, and http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/renewals.html.