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Cass County History
Cass County Genealogical Society Publications

The following county and township histories were submitted and reprinted with the permission of the Cass County Genealogical Society. There may be more than one history of some townships, as the articles below were taken from several Society publications:



Religious persecution was responsible for bringing the first white men to is now Cass County, Iowa. The Mormons crossed the area into their drive westward in search of new homes. About 20 families of the 16,000 stopped near the town of Lewis at a place they named Indiantown. They spent the winter of 1846-1847 in makeshift cabins and dugouts suffering the hardships of the times. Only a few Mormon families remained until 1851. A post office was established by that time but for some unknown reason it was called Cold Springs. Another village have been established in the same area about the same time. Iranistan, like Indiantown, survived but a few years, both being succeeded by Lewis.

In 1850, the first permanent settler in the area arrived, being Vincent M. Conrad, his wife and one child. He took up a claim in Cass township and built a log cabin. He later established a store, being the first in the area in 1854. Later his cabin was to serve as a post office until Lewis was founded. He later became a county treasurer.

Jeremiah Bradshaw arrived at Cold Springs in 1851, became postmaster, operated a hotel and stage station and served in various county office. The first white child born in Cass County, the grandson of Jeremiah Bradshaw, arrived September 6, 1852.

Iranistan was the first village in the counting being platted in 1852-1853--west of the town of Lewis. Indiantown followed, but they were rather short lived communities.
The first church organized in Cass County was organized by the Methodists in 1854.
The first mail route was established between Des Moines and Council Bluffs in 1852. It crossed Cass County.
In the year 1853, the county seat was located at Lewis. Most of the settlers in Indiantown and Iranistan moved to Lewis and these two settlements disappeared. Lewis remained the county seat for several years. In 1857 a petition was presented to transfer the county seat to Grove City. This was rejected, but the fight to change the seat of the county government dragged on until Lewis was bypassed by the railroad which came in 1868.
Grove City was once quite a community, being quite a populous center for its day, but it was doomed by the coming of the railroad, although traces of the old community remain today at its location a few miles southeast of Atlantic.
Grove City was founded in 1856 by J. R. Kirk, Albert Wakefield, D. A. Barnett, A. G. McQueen, A. P. Thayer, V. M. Conrad, J. P. Wheeler and E. W. Davenport; names which for the most part figure in the early history of Atlantic.
Grove City at one time boasted a doctor and lawyer, a post office, a hotel, a school, a preacher and also a saloon which developed the greatest excitement that the community had yet experienced. The saloon keeper, Michael Kelly, had some trouble with a young man named Thomas Curran. He shot Curran in the back, thus killing him. Kelly fled, and searchers hunted him for three days before finding him. He was brought to Grove City where he was put under guard to await trial, but that night a mob came and took the prisoner from his guard and hanged him near the home of J. R. Kirk.
Grove City was born, flourished and died within a few years, but from it came many of Atlantic's earliest citizens and most of its earliest businesses.
The Atlantic Town company was established by three men, Franklin H. Whitney, B. F. Allen, a Des Moines banker, and John P. Cook, who owned most of the land on which the original town was built, this being in the year 1868.
While Grove City had been an important village prior to the founding of Atlantic, it, like the town of Lewis, went into a declined when the railroad bypassed it.
The first home in Atlantic was started by Henry Miller on September 9, 1868. This house is located at 409 Birch Street, having been remodeled and relocated.
Mr. Whitney laid out the main street by plowing two furrows 100 feet apart from the Miller house, at what is now 6th and Chestnut, to the railroad right of way. With this street established, lots began to sell quickly and new businesses were opened. Grove City was moved almost bodily to the new town. The town of Atlantic was laid out in October, 1868, and the town plat was filed for record a short time later. The site of the city was the property of F.H. Whitney, B.F. Allen, John P. Cook and others. The town was first called "Avoca," by the railroad civil engineer and it was called "Avoca" for some days, but Mr. Whitney went to Des Moines coming back with the name changed to Atlantic.

The town was incorporated in 1876 and the first town officers were D.F. Hawks, Mayor; A.S. Churchill, Recorder; S.A. Martin, W.U. Parker, John R. Reynolds, S.W.W. Straight and J.C. Yetzer, Trustees. I.N. Dickerson was Treasurer and I.N. Whittam, Corporate Counsel.

All major religious denominations were represented in Atlantic by the early 1900's: Catholic, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopal, United Presbyterian, Christian, Danish Lutheran, German Lutheran, German Evangelical, and Seventh Day Adventists. Benevolent Societies included: the Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Elks.

Railroad lines into the town included: the Rock Island (east & west bound), the Rock Island branch to Audubon, The Rock Island branch to Griswold, and the A.N. & S. north to Kimballton and south to Villisca.

Cass County lies in the southwestern part of the State of Iowa in the third tier of counties from the south, and the second tier from the west. The present boundaries of the county were established in 1851. It includes sixteen townships and is a square with twenty-four miles square on each side. It contains about 368,640 acres. The Nishnabotna and Nodaway rivers and Turkey, Seven Mile and Troublesom creeks provide good drainage for crops. The county lies at an altitude of about 1,450 feet above sea level. Cass County consists of gently rolling prairie with timber along the streams. The soil is rich for crops and coal was mined in the southeastern part of the county.

Prior to white settlement, Cass County was inhabited by Pottawattamie Indians who had several encampments throughout the county and a large main camp and burial ground at Indiantown, which was about one and one-half miles west of current Lewis. In 1834, Chief Mahaska was sitting at his campfire when he was shot in the back, being killed instantly. He was buried along the Nodaway River in Edna Township. Most of the Indians left in 1847, although a few remained until about 1856.

The Indians gave up the lands which were to become Cass County in the Treaties of 1846. At that time there was not a single white resident in Cass County; but in the Fall of that same year, families from the Morman colony at Nauvoo, Illinois, under the leadership of Brigham Young, passed through the county on their way to Utah. Several families remained near Indiantown, establishing the first "white" town in Cass County called Iranistan. They remained there until 1849 when most continued their westward journey to Utah. In 1847, they established the first post office in the county and called it Cold Springs. The mail came once a week from what is know Council Bluffs.

The early arrival of settlers was slow but constant. Soon cabins dotted the prairies in all directions. Many of the first settlers brought their goods by oxen from Rockport, Missouri about 125 miles away. The journey took about three weeks. The first death of a white person occurred in 1850. The first white child was born in September, 1852. The first school in the county was taught in 1852-3. The first wedding took place in June, 1853.

With a population of 416 residents, Cass County was organized on the first Monday in March, 1853. It was named after Lewis Cass, then Senator from Michigan who had been an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1848. The county commissioners were given their first task of selecting a location for the county seat. They chose a site which was one mile from Indiantown and laid out the town of Lewis as the new seat of government.

Most of the businesses and settlers moved from Iranistan and Indiantown shortly after the Lewis town plat was laid out. A frame courthouse was built in 1856, with a small stone building erected in 1864 to house the treasurer's office.

In May of 1855, the Western Stage started running four-horse coaches from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. The coachs crossed the Nishnabotna River going through Indiantown and Iranistan before continuing on to Council Bluffs. New settlers continued to arrive and by the first census of Cass County, taken in 1856, there were 815 persons in the county (448 males, 367 females). In that year 172 tons of hay were grown in the county, 322 bushels of oats, 2838 bushels of spring wheat, 40,013 bushels of corn; 310 hogs were sold for $1684 and 317 cattle for $10,304. The value of domestic manufactories was $350, and of general manufactories $4,150.

In 1857, with the expected arrival of railroad lines, residents of Grove City attempted to have the county seat relocated to their town. It was their belief that the Grove City would be the rail depot for Cass County. Their attempt was uncessful. At the same time, speculators began purchasing lands and promoting the new site of Atlantic as a railroad depot. The Rock Island railroad came to Cass County in 1868, with Atlantic being the stopping place in Cass County. With the arrival of the railroad, Atlantic became a fast growing town. The county seat was removed from Lewis to Atlantic on October 20, 1869. The first courthouse built in Atlantic was completed in 1872, being replaced by a new courthouse in 1882.

In 1932, a fire destroyed the courthouse, but most of the records were saved. The present courthouse, a three-story building made of concrete and brick, was completed in 1934. A county jail addition was added in 1984.


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