Another IAGenWeb Project





FIRST and last several organizations have been perfected with the avowed object of promoting the agricultural interests of the county. At least that was given as the ostensible reason for their existence. The first of these was the Dickinson County Agricultural Society, which was organized in the summer of 1871, with R. A. Smith, president, R. L. Wilcox, secretary, and a board of directors of one from each township in the county. An agricultural fair was held at Spirit Lake on the nineteenth day of October, 1871, which was a decided success in its way, especially if measured by the zeal and interest manifested by its promoters. The society was kept up some three or four years, but the coming of the grasshoppers in 1873, and the four years destruction of the crops which followed, so demoralized the agricultural interests of the county that the annual fairs were abandoned and the Dickinson County Agricultural Society went out of existence. One or two attempts have since been made, and meetings called with the object in view of reviving the old organization or forming a new one, but nothing ever came of them.


The Granges represent the next move on the part of the agriculturists to build up a farmers' organization. Their story has been told in connection with that of the civic societies of the several towns where located and need not be repeated. After the passing of the Grange, came the Farmers' Alliance. Their story is soon told. So long as they confined their efforts to the legitimate objects for which they were organized they enjoyed a good degree of prosperity, but when the management fell into selfish and incompetent hands, agricultural interests were neglected and the leaders endeavored to use the organization for personal and partisan ends, it became unpopular, and soon was numbered with the things that were but are not.


The Farmers' Alliance was succeeded by the Farmers' Institute. This institution sprang up suddenly and became immensely popular at once, and bids fair to remain one of the permanent institutions of the county. The first one was held at Superior, February 21 and 22, 1895. The first move for a Farmers' Institute in this county seems to have originated with the citizens of Superior and others in the eastern portion of the county, and to them belongs the credit of making the first start in that direction. An association was formed, of which W. F. Taylor was president, and H. D. Cole, secretary. Henry Wallace was the principal speaker and conductor of the Institute, and succeeded in inspiring a good degree of interest and enthusiasm. The first meetings seem to have been somewhat informal, but a regular organization was effected at the meeting at Spirit Lake March 10 and 11, 1897. Since the first sessions have been held at Spirit Lake, Milford and Lake Park, and at each place with marked success.


There are several reasons why, in the nature of things, the Farmers' Institute is of far more value to the agricultural interests than anything that preceded it. In the first place, the organization is simplicity itself, and can be readily adapted to any and all conditions. The tendency of the old time fair to degenerate into a horse race, and a poor one at that, nearly destroyed its usefulness in any other direction. Horse racing may be all right enough, but it should be worked in a class by itself. The Grange proved too expensive in both time and money. Its organization was too complex for the purpose for which it was intended, and it gradually died out. The Spirit Lake Grange maintained its organization much longer than any other in this part of the state, but finally passed out of existence. The tendency of the Alliance was to run into politics, and to stimulate its members to try to get something for nothing. None of these objections can be urged against the Farmers' Institute. On the contrary, the Institute has proven the most economical and satisfactory channel yet devised for the interchanging of ideas, and comparing experiences along the line of agricultural development.


The Dickinson County Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company was organized in January, 1890, but no policies were written until the following June. The first officers were: President, U. I. Bruns; Vice-President, Don B. Smith; Secretary, J. W. Hagerty; Treasurer, P. Rasmussen; and a board of directors consisting of one person from each township. But two policies were written the first year, the first one being in favor of J. R. Leman, afterwards president of the company. At first the growth was slow and the business light, but about 1894 it commenced to increase, and since that time it has steadily grown in volume, until by the middle of 1901 the risks carried by this company aggregated nearly half a million dollars and were rapidly increasing. The present officers are: President, J. R. Leman; Vice-President, S. A. Willey; Secretary, H. Van Steenburg; Treasurer, Don B. Smith.


The Farmers' Mutual is proving a most effectual barrier against the oppressive exactions formerly practiced by the old line companies and is rapidly growing in public favor. It is claimed by the representatives of the old line companies that they are not making any money in Iowa, and that it is impossible for them to make any under the present insurance laws of the state. Now, this may be true, but it is also: true that the farmers' mutuals where honestly and economically managed furnish equally safe and satisfactory protection and at less than half the cost. Of course this applies strictly to farm insurance. The question of town insurance is a different and far more difficult problem.


It will hardly be desirable, even if it were possible, to follow the details of the county history through the later years of its growth. In comparing figures with those of other counties, the fact must be borne in mind that Dickinson County has the smallest area of land of any county in the state. While the area of a standard Iowa county is sixteen townships, or five hundred and seventy-six sections, this county has but twelve townships, four of which are fractional on the state line and not full size. The total area of the county is three hundred and twenty-one sections, about ten per cent of which is occupied by lakes, or about half the area of a standard county. This fact should be remembered when comparing the figures or statistics of this county with those of others.


Statistics are usually voted dry and uninteresting, and it is not deemed worth the trouble to give more than is necessary to show in a general way the gradual growth and development of the county. The population of the county at the several periods mentioned are from the official census reports. Dickinson County first appeared in the census returns in 1859. The figures from that date to the present are as follows:



At the first glance it would seem that there is a manifest error in the figures for 1869, the percentage of growth from that year to the next being so much greater than at any other period, but then the census of 1869 was taken by the assessor and was based on the population at the first of January of that year, while that of 1870 was taken by the United States commissioner and shows the population on the first of June of that year, so that nearly a year and a half elapsed between the two enumerations. 1869 and 1870 were the years in which the government land was being taken so rapidly by homesteaders, which accounts for the percentage of growth being so much more then than at any other time. With this explanation one can understand that the figures for both years may be substantially correct.


The total area of taxable land in the county exclusive of town lots, is 235,206 acres. The adjusted actual value of lands and town lots for 1900 was $5,939,767, which being assessed at 25 per cent of its actual value, makes the taxable value of real estate for that year, $1,484,892. The taxable value of the railroads in the county for that year was $149,365, and of personal property $276,120, thereby making the total taxable valuation of the county for that year $1,910,317, and the adjusted actual value $7,611,268.


Since the first organization of the county in 1857 the offices have been filled as follows :


County Judge: 1857 to 1858, O. C. Howe; 1858 to 1862, Leonidas Congleton; 1862 to 1864, J. D. Howe; 1864 to 1866, Ludwig Lewis; 1866 to 1868, H. C. Owen; 1868 to 1870, Samuel Pillsbury. Up to 1861 the county judges in Iowa transacted the county business and had almost despotic power, but in 1860 the legislature transferred this power to the Board of Supervisors, after which the duties of the county judge were merely nominal. The office was continued until 1868, when it was abolished and the then acting county judge was made ex officio county auditor for the balance of the unexpired term.


Treasurer and Recorder: 1857 to 1859, M. A. Blanchard; 1859 to 1861, W. B. Brown; 1861 to 1865, James Ball; 1865 to 1867, A. Kingman; 1867 to 1869, A. Jenkins; 1869 to 1873, M. J. Smith. The legislature in 1872 separated the offices of treasurer and recorder, making them two separate offices, the law taking effect January 1, 1873. The office of treasurer was held: 1872 to 1875, G. S. Needham; 1875 to 1886, A. W. Osborne; 1886 to 1894, O. Oliver; 1894 to 1898, D. N. Guthrie; 1898 to 1902, J. C. Davis. During this latter period the office of recorder was held: 1873 to 1875, R. L. Wilcox; 1875 to 1881, A. A. Mosher; 1881 to 1889, C. C. Perrin; 1889 to 1895, Harvey Wood; 1895 to 1903, C. W. Price.


Clerk of the District Court: 1857 to 1859, R. A. Smith; 1859 to 1861, J. Palmer; 1861 to 1863, John Smith; 1863 to 1865, R. A. Smith; 1865 to 1867, Orson Rice; 1867 to 1871, A. A. Mosher; 1871 to 1873, W. B. Brown; 1873 to 1879, j, A Smith; 1879 to 1887, W. F. Pillsbury; 1887 to 1893, J. S. Everett; 1893 to 1897, V. A. Arnold; 1897 to 1903, W. A. Price. From 1861 to 1869 the clerk of the district court was ex officio clerk of the Board of Supervisors, after which time this work was done by the county auditor.


Sheriff: C. F. Hill was 'first sheriff of the county; elected in 1857. Following him was: 1859 to 1862, A. D. Arthur. From 1862 to 1870 it is difficult to ascertain how this office was filled, the records having been lost at the burning of the courthouse. Daniel Bennett had held the office at intervals before W. S. Beers was elected in the fall of 1869, and held until 1872. 1872 to 1873, L. A. Litel; 1873 to 1874, L. E. Holcomb; 1874 to 1876, A. L. Sawyer; 1876 to 1880, D. Bennett; 1880 to 1888, P. S. Mott; 1888 to 1892, A. D. Inman; 1892 to 1898, P. E. Narey; 1898 to 1900, J. C. Guthrie; 1900 to present time, Fred Jones.


County Attorney: 1857 to 1859, B. F. Parmenter. The legislature in 1858 abolished the office to take effect January 1, 1859, and a district attorney for the judicial district substituted therefor. In 1888 the office was revived, and since that time has been held by the following persons: 1 889 to 1891, William Hayward; 1891 to 1895, A. W. Osborne; 1895 to 1901, L. E. Francis; 1901 to the present, V. A. Arnold.


County Surveyor: 1857 to 1858, Alfred Wilkins. Much of the time from 1858 to 1870 this office was vacant, the duties being merely nominal. 1871 to 1873, W. B. Brown; 1874 to 1876, W. F. Pillsbury; 1876 to 1878, Emmet F. Hill ; 1878 to 1882, R. A. Smith; 1882 to 1884, Fred Diserns; 1884 to 1886, C. E. Everett; 1886 to 1888, R. A. Smith; 1888 to 1890, J. A. Smith; 1890 to 1894, R. A. Smith; 1894 to 1902, J. M. Johnson.


County Auditor: The office of county auditor was established by the Twelfth General Assembly previous to which time the clerk of the district court was ex officio clerk of the Board of Supervisors. The first auditor elected in the county was Samuel Pillsbury, who served from 1870 to 1882. 1882 to 1890, W. F. Carlton; 1890 to 1893, C. T, Chandler; 1893 to 1897, W. C. Drummond; 1897 to 1903, S. L. Pillsbury.


Superintendent of Schools : Up to about 1870 the duties of this office were nominal and but little attention given to it. It was held by James Ball, John Smith and one or two others. Since that time it has been filled as follows : 1870 to 1875, A. W. Osborne; 1875 to 1880, H. C. Crary; 1880 to 1886, R. A. Smith; 1886 to 1888, W. H. Armin; 1888 to 1894, R. B. Young; 1894 to the present time, H. A. Welty.


The law transferring the county business from the county judge to the Board of Supervisors went into force January 1, 1861, since which time the Board of Supervisors have been:


1861, R. Kingman, William Barkman, J. S. Prescott; 1862, Thomas Wyckoff, Henry Meeker, Addison Arthur; 1863, T Wyckoff, Henry Meeker, Eber Palmer; 1864, Thomas Wykoff, Henry Meeker, Eber Palmer; 1865, L. A. Stimpson, H. W. Davis, D. Bennett; 1866, L. A. Stimpson, H. W. Davis, Philip Doughty; 1867, L. A. Stimpson, H. W. Davis, Philip Doughty; 1868, G. Blackert, G. W. Pratt, Philip Doughty; 1869, J. Sperbeck, G. W. Pratt, W. D. Morton; 1870, G. Blackert, W. D. Morton, J. Palmer: 1871, G. Blackert, W. D. Morton; J. Palmer; 1872, R. A. Smith, J. Palmer, W. D. Morton; 1873, C. H. Avers, R. A. Smith, G. S. Randall ; 1874, G. S. Randall, W. A. Richards, R. A. Smith; 1875, J. R. Upton, G. S. Randall, W. A. Richards; 1876, AV. A. Richards, J. R. Upton. D. Fester; 1877, J. R. Upton, A. D. Foster, L. W. Waugh; 1878, L. W. Waugh, W. F. Carlton, A. S. Mead; 1879, L. W. Waugh, AV. F. Carlton, A. S. Mead; 1880, L. AV. Waugh, W. F. Carlton, A. S. Mead; 1881, L. 1W. Waugh, W. F. Carlton, A. S. Mead; 1882, I. S. Foster, O. Oliver, H. Brandon; 1883, I. S. Foster, O. Oliver, W. H. Bailey; 1884, I. S. Foster, O. Oliver, W. H. Bailey; 1885, I. S. Foster, G. P. Wodell, R. S. Hopkins; 1886, I. S. Foster, G. P. Wodell, R. S. Hopkins ; 1887, I. S. Foster, G. P. Wodell, R. S. Hopkins; 1888, J. Austin, G. P. Wodell, H. S. Hopkins ; 1889, I. S. Foster, J. Austin, D. B. Smith; 1890, I. S. Foster, J. Austin, D. B. Smith; 18:11, C. C. Gregory, H. Calkins, D. Smith; 1892, C. C. Gregory, H. Calkins, D. B. Smith; 1893, C. C. Gregory, H. C. Wiley, D. B. Smith; 1894, C. C. Gregory, H. C. Wiley, D. B. Smith; 1895, C. C. Gregory, H. C. Wiley, P. Rasmussen; 1896, C. C. Gregory, O. S. Jones, P. Rasmussen; 1897, P. Hagerty, O. S. Jones, P. Rasmussen; 1898, P. Hagerty, P. Rasmussen, O. S. Jones ; 1899, P. Rasmussen, O. S. Jones, P. Hagerty; 1900, O. S. Jones, C. C. Gregory, P. Rasmussen; 1901, O. S. Jones, C. C. Gregory, A. W. Bascom.


At first the supervisors were elected one from each organized township, after the New York plan. In 1868 the change was made to elect the supervisors from the county at large. This plan was followed until 1900, when the county was divided into three districts, and each district elects a member of the board once in three years. Under the law a county can have three, five or seven supervisors, as they choose. It is also optional to elect them from the county at large or divide the county into districts, and as before stated, this county was divided into three districts in 1900.


The following district officers have also been elected from this county: In 1859 to 1863, O. C. Howe was district attorney; 1867 to 1871, O. Rice was district attorney; 1887 to 1891, J. W. Cory was district attorney. House of Representatives: Tenth General Assembly, John Smith; Twelfth General Assembly, R. A. Smith; Eighteenth General Assembly, W. B. Brown; Twenty-eighth General Assembly, H. H. Myers. Senate, 1887 to 1899, A. B. Funk.


The Eighteenth General Assembly created the office of Assistant Fish Commissioner, which office was held by A. A. Mosher, of this county, until the office was abolished in 1888. In 1888 E. D. Carlton, of this county, was appointed Fish Commissioner by Governor Larrabee, and held the office two terms. The office of Steamboat Inspector was created about 1886, and has been held by residents of this county as follows: A. A. Henderson, E. O. Henderson, Milo Brown, J. C. Christensen, Arthur Arp.


More statistics might be given were it deemed desirable, but unimportant figures soon become monotonous. Enough have been given from which to form a fairly intelligent idea of the growth and development of the county, and while this growth and development has not been as rapid or as marked as that of some other localities, it has been steady and substantial and in the main satisfactory.