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