Dallas County IAGenWeb

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This, one of the central counties of the state, is the fifth east of the Missouri River, and in the fourth tier from the southern boundary line, is twenty-four miles square, and contains an area of five hundred and seventy-six square miles.


The Des Moines River crosses the northeast corner of the county, and with Beaver Creek, one of its affluent's, affords drainage and some excellent timber in that portion, while the Raccoon River, and its branches and tributaries, drains the larger part of the county. The principal branches are known as the North, Middle and South Raccoon, which, with their tributaries, Panther, Mosquito and Bulgar creeks, and the Des Moines and its tributaries, pass through some portions of nearly one-half of the sections of the county. It will thus be seen that the county is admirably well watered, there being scarcely a square mile that has not a living stream passing through it. There are a number of small lakes in the northwest, the largest of which is Pilot Lake, in Lincoln Township. The Raccoon River as it meanders through this county affords some of the best mill sites in the state, the supply of water being constant and reliable the year round, as it is supported largely by living springs, the main branch having its source away to the northwest, in the region of Storm Lake. The North Branch, running the entire extent of the county from northwest to southeast, passes through some fifty sections of land, on nearly every one of which a head of six feet could be obtained. The Middle Branch also affords some excellent powers, while only a small portion of those on either stream have as yet been utilized. To the enthusiast, the beauty and picturesqueness of these streams and their surroundings occasions lively interest, but by the practical man they are viewed in the light of their value as water powers. Being so evenly distributed over the county, the distance to timber and mills from the center of the largest prairies is comparatively insignificant, and when in addition to all this it is considered that the nearness together of the streams renders the divides between them short, and thereby occasions the absence of the extensive and unapproachable sloughs and ponds which are often found in extensive prairies.


Springs issue from the gravel beds along the bluffs, and in the ravines, at frequent intervals, while well water is easily obtained at a moderate depth beneath the surface. Near the southwest corner of the county is a spring which is strongly impregnated with salt. It rises near the head of a ravine, but there is a level space of nearly an acre around it, supposed to have been worn down by the numerous buffalo, deer and cattle, which have so long been attracted to the spot. A little more than a mile east of Wiscotta there is a spring strongly tinctured with sulphur, while in the vicinity are a large number of soft water springs, some of which has some curious and peculiar characteristics. It is designated on the plats of original surveys as "Curiosity Spring." The trickling and flowing of the water has formed around it a porous limestone incrustation through which the water sometimes passes, and at others flows over.

The surface configuration of Dallas County presents a somewhat varied aspect in its different parts, which is due in a great measure to the nature of the underlying coal-measure formation. The larger streams have eroded their beds to a depth of from one hundred to two hundred feet below the general level of the upland, producing narrow valleys bordered by declivities more or less abrupt. The northern portion is gently undulating and well drained, while west of the North Raccoon the surface descends into a broad, shallow depression, which corresponds to the synclinal basin that exists in the coal-measure strata in that section. East of the same river the country is high and level, and mainly watered by streams that flow directly into the Raccoon and South Fork rapidly rises, forming the divide between this stream and North River, which has its culmination in Madison County but a little south of the border of Dallas, and embracing a tract much more broken and hilly than is found further northward.

Although prairie is the prevailing characteristic of the county, it has a good supply of timber, which, in the judgment of the most observing and best informed citizens, is about one acre of timber to ten of prairie, which well informed citizens claim is growing more every year than the annual consumption for all purposes. The soil of the uplands is usually a rich black loam, while in the valleys there is a greater proportion of sand, and upon the terraces or second bottoms, has the warm gravelly soil usually found in similar sections. While wheat and corn are the staple crops, all the cereals, vegetables and grasses usually found in Central Iowa are grown with success. Fruit culture has hardly received that attention which its promises of remuneration would seem to have justified. The cultivation of grapes, so far as has been experimented upon, also gives every indication of proving a success. There is no reason why fruit growing will not soon become an important source of wealth to the county.


A number of coal banks have been opened in different parts of the county, and there is no reason to doubt that coal abounds in at least fourteen of the sixteen Congressional townships, as indications are visible along all the principal streams of the existence of workable beds. So far as the banks have been opened, the veins are found to be from three to five feet in thickness, and the product equal in quality to the average coal of the state. The coal used at Adel is principally obtained from mines which have been opened on North and South Raccoon, and it is hauled a distance of about five miles. The best coal, however, is that mined on Middle Raccoon, near Redfield, while in the northeast township, along the Des Moines River, coal also abounds, but is yet mined only in limited quantities.

Next to a coal mine, as an essential element in the improvement and development of a county, is the article of good building stone. Indeed, where timber is plenty, the former may be the most conveniently dispensed with. In having an abundance of good building stone distributed in quarries throughout the country, along nearly all the streams, Dallas County is highly favored. Both sandstone and limestone are found, though the former is principally used for building purposes. It is easily quarried, readily dressed, and found to be durable.

The foundation and caps and sills of the Court House in Adel, and other buildings, are tests of the superior quality of this stone. On Bulger Creek, near DeSoto, the same quality of stone is found which has acquired so high a reputation in Madison County. Quick-lime is manufactured in many places, but the best is obtained from a species of limestone found scattered over the surface of some portions of the county, entirely detached from any quarry or regular strata, and termed here "lost rocks." The lime made from them is of a very superior quality. Good brick are manufactured in different localities, for which suitable clay and sand exist in sufficient abundance. The rivers afford an abundance of excellent gravel. One who is curious in such matters, may in a short time, on any one of the gravel bars along North Raccoon River, collect a geological cabinet embracing a large variety of stones, shells and pebbles, many of which are very beautiful. Near Adel, on Miller's Branch of North Raccoon, is a two-foot vein of a species of pipe-stone of beautiful and variegated appearance. When first exposed to the air it is soft and easily cut to any shape, but hardens when dried. It is also susceptible of a fine polish, and is of a lead color, with reddish streaks passing through it.


The right of the Indians to occupy the territory embraced within this county did not cease until the Fall of 1845. It is not strange, however, that before the Indians had all left, the fine groves of timber along the Raccoon Rivers, with the rich, rolling intervening prairies, should have attracted the adventurous pioneer.

In January, 1846, Samuel Miller came to look at the country. He had, in October, 1845, removed from Gibson County, Indiana, to Jefferson County in this state. On the 12th day of March, 1846, about 12 o'clock M., he arrived with his family and settled in Adel Township, on a claim, his being the first white family that settled in Dallas County. Others came with their families a few days later, and some without families came at the same time, among whom were Wilson Miller, John Longmeyer, Tristram Davis, Henry Stump, John Wright, Noah Staggs, Levi A. Davis, George Hills, Archibald Crowl, and Mrs. Sarah Ellis. Most of these families were from Vermillion County, Illinois. This was the first settlement made in the county. In the Fall of 1846 George P. Garoutte took a claim on North Raccoon, on what proved, when the land was sectionized, to be section 6, township 79, range 27, and about the geographical center of the county. Others very soon settled in the same vicinity, among whom were Z. Babcock, Adam Vinage and Harvey Adams.

In the year 1846 Elijah T. Miller, a son of Wilson Miller, made a claim on what is now the town site of Adel. Subsequently, when the commissioners came to locate the county seat, he relinquished a portion of his claim, and sold the remainder to a man named Thomas Butler. A branch near the northwest part of the town is now known as Butler's Branch.

During the Spring of 1846 the first settlement was also made in Boone Township, in the southeast corner of the county, by George and Shobal Hayworth. They were soon followed by William D. Boone, J. C. Goodson, Richard Golden, Daniel Flinn, and a family named Neal. Among the early settlers were also the Huston Brothers, George Knight and a Mr. Lane.


Walnut Township, north of Boone, was first settled by C. B. Snow, and Messrs. Hoff, Strahl, Duncan and Cutler, also in 1846.

O. D. Smalley was the first to settle in Des Moines, the northeast corner township of the county. He was from Missouri, and came in the Spring of 1847. The next settler in that township was Judah Leming, Jr., from Jefferson County in this state, who came the same year. He died about eighteen years ago in Warren County. Among those who followed soon and took up claims in Des Moines Township were Messrs. Rhoads, Snyder, Harlow and Robbins.

Union Township, in the southwest corner of the county, began to settle in 1847. The first who erected his claim cabin there, was David Dally, and it stood on the land now embraced in the town plat of Wiscotta. He sold his claim to Thomas Cavenaugh & Brothers, who settled on it, and subsequently laid out the town of New Ireland, now called Redfield. About the same time, or shortly after, the following settlers came in; Colonel Owen, Humphrey Smith, Leroy Lambert, L. D. Hewit, George W. Noel, John Hays, Peter and John Cook, John  Fee. Thomas Elliott, George B. Warden, and John, Adam, Nelson and William Caves. The above list embraces most of the pioneers of this township-those who were obliged to live on boiled corn. At this time the nearest mill was at Oskaloosa, and to make a trip there and back with an ox-team, required from ten days to two weeks. Oskaloosa was the nearest point to a mill, except the "Stamp Mill," run by horse power, started on the 24th of December, 1846, by Samuel Miller, or "Uncle Sammy," as every body familiarly called him. This was the pioneer mill of Dallas County, and had one small set of burrs, and was what is generally termed a "corn-cracker." Its completion was made the occasion of a grand Christmas jollification among the settlers.

The first death that occurred in Union Township, was a child of David Daily, in 1848. Thomas Elliott was the post master of the settlement, and kept the mail matter deposited in a clock case of antique fashion. Linn Township, in the west part of the county, and immediately north of Union, was settled early by persons principally from Wayne and Randolph Counties, Indiana. John F. Willis was the first permanent settler, but was soon followed by Isaac Fee, John Jelin, Josiah Lamb, Hiram Rosecranz, John Maulsby, William Thornburgh, R. W. Lumpkin, James Harper, and George Bailey. "Uncle George" will be remembered as the attentive and popular door-keeper of the house of Representatives, of the twelfth session of the General Assembly. The first settlement in this township commenced in 1847.

Among the first settlers in the two townships of Sugar Grove and Washington, immediately north of Adel Township, were the following; In Sugar Grove—Isaac Warford, Slemmons Taylor, Thomas Storms, Andrew Rinehart, and John Temple. In Washington—David Starbuck, John Beaver, J. T. Roush, William Smith, and Benson Yard. These townships are now dotted with fine farms, good buildings, and artificial groves.

Beaver Township is north of Sugar Grove, and west of Des Moines, adjoining Boone County. Seth H. Dayton was the first settler. Among the early settlers were J. M. Townsend, C. C. Burdick, Mr. McConnell, and Mrs. Gardner and family. This township was organized with seven voters, all Democratic, and of course was the banner Democratic township of Dallas County. It is now Republican.

Immediately west of Beaver, on the north side of the county, is Spring Valley Township. Its early settlers were Nathaniel McKean, Judge Thornburgh, Harvey Willis, John McMillen, Michael Shively. Wilson Minor, and Jesse Bramfield. This is one of the fairest townships in the county. The farmers are largely engaged in raising stock, for which it is well adapted.

Dallas Township is west of Spring Valley, and is the northwest corner township of the county. Mr. Henderson was the first settler. He was soon followed by Hooper Morrain, J. V. Brock, William Gilliland, John Morriston, Tilman Chance, William E. Tolle, and A. L. Towne.

South of Dallas, on the west side of the county, is Lincoln, the last organized and one of the best growing townships in the county. J. R. Powell was for several years the only settler in it, but it is now well filling up.
Among the early settlers of the central and south portions of the county, were also Mathew Boyd, J. V. Pierce, L. D. Burns, S. C. Taylor, S. Boyd, and Taylor Boils.


Dallas County was organized in pursuance of an act of the Legislature approved February 16, 1847. Eli Smithson was named as the organizing sheriff, and the commissioners to locate the county seat were William Wear and William Canfield, of Polk County, and Lysander W. Babbitt, now of Council Bluffs. They were directed to meet at Hickory, in Dallas County, on the first Monday in May, 1847, for the purpose of entering upon the discharge of their duties. The place called Hickory, is said to have been at the geographical center of the county, though few, except the older settlers, know any thing about it. Suffice it to say, that it was an early aspirant for county seat honors.

The commissioners, in due time, made selection of the present site of Adel, and in the same month, May, 1847, the town was surveyed. The name which the commissioners applied to the new town was Panouch—an Indian word, signifying far away. It was called by this name for several years before it was changed to Adel. The town was surveyed by Martin W. Miller, County Surveyor, and on the 5th of July, 1847, the streets and alleys were conveyed for public use by the officiating county commissioners, Tristram Davis and William W. Miller.


The first county commissioners were Tristram Davis, Oscar D. Smalley, and William W. Miller, and the first probate judge was Joseph D. Goodson. The first county judge, after the change of the system in 1851, was Lloyd D. Burns.

The first marriage was that of George Hayworth and Mary Stump, September 2, 1847, by S. C. Corbell, a justice of the peace. The parties were of even age—twenty-four years.

One of the first justices of the peace, was Judah Leming, Sr. The first legally established highway through the county, was part of a road from the west line of Johnson County via Newton, Des Moines and Adel, to the west line of Dallas County, in the direction of Council Bluffs. Its location was authorized by an act of the Legislature, approved January 15, 1849. The commissioners appointed to locate it were John Wright, Jesse Richman, and John Wykoff, who finished their work in June of that year. The first conveyance of real estate on record bears date February 13, 1850, and was acknowledged before Judah Leming, Sr., a justice of the peace. The grantors were Judah Leming, Jr. and wife, and the grantee was Martin Tucker, of Polk County. The property conveyed was the southwest quarter of section twenty-three, township eighty-one, range twenty-six, 160 acres, for the consideration of $100.00.

The first district court convened at Panouch (now Adel), September 6, 1847, Honorable James P. Carlton, then judge of the 4th Judicial District, presiding; Steven R. Scovell, clerk, and Eli Smithson, sheriff. The following is a list of the first grand jurors; John Longmire, Levi Wright, Uriah Stotts, Archibald Crowl, Henry Stump, David Spear, Oscar D. Smalley, John Spear, John Wright, Greenberry Coffin, Henry Garner, Lewis Stump, John Miller, Subal Hayworth, George Hayworth, James Black, and Eli Miller. David Spear was appointed foreman, and Martin W. Miller bailiff.


The court appointed William McKay special prosecuting attorney for Dallas County. The court ordered that the "eagle side of a twenty-five cent piece of American coin be the temporary seal of the county." The grand jury, after retiring a short time to the shade of a tree, returned into court and reported that they had no "bills or presentments to make," and were thereupon duly discharged. There seems to have been no further business transacted at this term.

The next court convened at Panouch, June 4, 1849, Judge William McKay presiding, Dallas County then being in the Fifth Judicial District. There seems to have been but one case, and the following is the record, showing the disposition made of that; "William D. Boone vs. John Wright. The parties now come, and thereupon the said defendant files his motion for a continuance, and also a motion to dismiss the case from the docket; and thereupon, by agreement of said parties, a change of venue is granted to the County of Polk in this Judicial

The first probate business on record, was the appointment of William W. Miller as the guardian of the minor children of Eli Smithson, deceased, by L. D. Burns, County Judge, September 12, 1851. Rice R. Turner was appointed administrator of the same estate, while the first will admitted to probate was that of Masson Bilderback, November 17, 1851.

Such is a glance at the early days of Dallas County. Many who have been mentioned as pioneers and prominent actors have passed away, leaving but a few now remaining to contrast the present development and conveniences with the hardships and deprivations of the past.


Dallas County has good railroad facilities, the main line of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific passing through the southern tier of townships, while the Des Moines & Fort Dodge enters the county near the southeast corner, and runs in a northwest direction between Beaver Creek and Raccoon River.


Dallas, in common with most Iowa counties, also has its newspaper history. The first enterprise of this kind was commenced in 1856, by Rippey & Reed. Their paper was a Democratic organ, and was called The Ship of State. For a single year it tossed about upon the uncertain waves of public patronage, and then disappeared, master and mate managing by some means to get safely into port.

Then came the Prairie Flower, in 1857, which bloomed but a few brief months, and then withered and died for the want of proper nourishment. This was a neutral paper, and its publishers a joint stock company. Next, in the Summer of 1860, appeared a Republican organ called the Dallas County Union, published by E. W. Fuller, which was discontinued in the Fall of 1861, when Mr. Fuller went into the army as a sutler in the 39th Iowa Infantry.

The Western Journal, published by Harmon Cook, was the next journalistic offering to the people of Dallas County, which was also Republican in politics, but only continued for a short time. Next in order comes the Dallas County Gazette, established in May, 1866, by L. M. Holt, who, August 1, 1867, sold to G. A. Atwood. He continued to conduct the establishment in an able manner for some three years, when, in 1870, he sold to J. E. Williams, who has, by his able and efficient management greatly increased the popularity and usefulness of the paper. In politics it is Republican, holding and expressing a decided opinion upon all the great public
questions of the day.

The Dallas County News, a neatly printed local sheet, holding the anti-monopoly belief in politics, was established in 1872, by A. Dilley, who, in October, 1873, sold to the present owner, J. M. Landis, who has since devoted himself to the local interests of Adel and Dallas County.


L. W. KELLY, Auditor. A. C. HOTCHKISS, Clerk of Courts.
T. C. WALSH, Treasurer. J. W. MATTOX, Recorder.
A. W. HAINES, Sheriff. J. M. CROCKER, Supt. of Common Schools.
LEM WARFORD, Chairman Board of Supervisors.


This town, the county seat of Dallas County, is delightfully situated on the west bank of North Raccoon River, partly on a dry, rolling second-bottom, extending from the bank of the river westward, and embracing a semi-circular plateau. Fine residence lots and blocks extend back upon the higher slopes. From these elevations there are many delightful views of the romantic valley, with the fine bodies of timber stretching out from the river on either side, and well cultivated farms on the adjacent prairie slopes. One peculiarity of the location is, that no abrupt ravines or really broken lands are to be found in the vicinity. On the town plat of Adel the prairie comes down gently sloping, for complete drainage, to the bank of the river. One may not find in a long journey a dell (Adel) more beautiful. It is said that the peculiar situation of the place suggested the name. In the early records of the county it is spelled Adell, but the faster age saw proper to abbreviate it by dropping the last "L".

The town was laid out in May, 1847, and the first building, a log cabin, about fourteen feet square, was put up the same season by Stephen K. Scovell, the first clerk. He erected it for an office, and being unmarried, he kept
"bachelor's hall," and transacted the business of the county. Once he had occasion to visit a distant part of the county, and for safe keeping put the county records in his pocket. Becoming weary, he sat down on a log to rest, and report says he fell asleep. In due time he awoke and pursued his journey. After traveling some miles, he discovered that he had lost the county records. They have not been found to this day. Benjamin Green kept the first store in Adel, about the year 1849. The first hotel was kept by Isaac Davis.

Adel contains a population of about 1,000, and is a neat, well built, pleasant village. The public schools are well graded, and in charge of a corps of accomplished and experienced teachers, while the principal religious
denominations, such as Presbyterian, Methodist, Christian, Baptist, and Catholic, all have church organizations and good houses of worship. The several benevolent orders, Masons, Odd Fellows, etc., have organizations in good working order, with large and growing memberships.

The other villages and towns in the county are; Perry, Minburn, Dallas Center, Waukee, Booneville, Van Meter, DeSoto, Dexter, Wiscotta, and Redfield.


~ source: HISTORY:  Dallas Co., IA From the A. T. Andreas Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875. Page 474-475
~ contributed by Cay Merryman

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