Franklin co. IAGenWeb Franklin county & community Histories

Early history of Franklin county:
Establishment, formation, organization, description, early settlers

~transcriptions by S. Ferrall for Franklin co. IAGenWeb


~Source: History of Iowa, Vol 3, Chapter 16, by Benjamin F. Gue, 1903; pg 42

Franklin County lies in the third tier south of Minnesota and in the fifth west of the Mississippi River. It contains sixteen townships making an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles, and was named for Benjamin Franklin of Revolutionary fame.

The county was created in 1851 and attached to Chickasaw for judicial and election purposes. In October, 1852, James B. Reeves, John Mayne and Addison Phelps made claims near a creek in the eastern part of the county where they found a fine body of timber. The grove and creek were named for Mr. Mayne. The following year Dr. Aldrich took a claim and built a cabin near where Ackley stands. He sold the claim to Thomas Downs who was frozen to death in 1855 by a fierce blizzard which overtook him while crossing an unsettled prairie. During the summer and fall of 1852 several families made claims along Mayne Creek. In 1853 B. F. White settled near the Iowa River in the western part of the county. In 1854 a report reached the scattered settlers that a band of three hundred hostile Indians was approaching and the families fled for protection to Beaver Grove in Butler County. Upon their return their property was found unmolested.

The first school in the county was taught by Mrs. H. J. Mitchell in 1854 in a log cabin at Maynes Grove.

At the August election in 1855 the county was organized by the choice of the following officers: James B. Reeves, judge; S. R. Mitchell, clerk; Isaac Miller, treasurer; and Soloman Staley, sheriff.

The first county seat was located by the Commissioners about two miles north of Hampton. On the 7th of April, 1856, the citizens at an election voted to move it to the new town of Benjamin which had been laid out in June, 1856. The name was soon after changed to Hampton which became the permanent county seat. The first settler in the new town was James Thompson who moved from Vinton early in 1856. Job Gardner and George Ryan donated to the county the undivided half of eighty acres of land upon which Hampton was located in order to secure the county-seat.

The first newspaper was the Franklin Record which was established by Stephen M. Jones and M. S. Bowman at Hampton in 1859.

The Illinois Central Railroad touches the county on the south while the Iowa Central runs through from south to north.

~Source: Iowa State Atlas - 1904, Counties of Iowa — Descriptive and Historical;
Huebinger and Company, 1904; Franklin County, pg 353

Franklin is in the third tier of counties from the north line of the state and the fifth from the east. It is twenty-four miles square and contains 576 square miles of surface or 368,640 acres. The Iowa river crosses the extreme southwest corner of the county. In the east part are a number of good sized creeks at almost regular intervals. The west and northwest part of the county is quite level with but few water courses.

A moderate amount of native timber and good building stone are found in places along most of the streams.

The general surface of the county varies from the very level to the smoothly rolling with fragments of broken land in places on the streams. No county or country has a richer soil.

The county is crossed by the Iowa Central, Chicago Great Western and Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railways.

The settlement of the county was begun in October, 1852, by James B. Reeve, John Mayne and a Mr. Phelps. They settled at what became known as Mayne's Grove. Mr. Reeve became a permanent settler, Mr. Mayne was a hunter and trapper and only remained a couple of years, and Mr. Phelps but a few months.

During 1853 a Dr. Aldred settled at what was later called Down's Grove, in the southeast corner of the county. In a short time he sold out to a newcomer, Thomas Downs. In March, 1855, Mr. Downs was frozen to death between his home and what was called Hardin City. During 1853 several families settled along Mayne's creek, and in the southeast part of the county.

In 1854 many others came, among whom were John I. Popejoy, Amon Rice, John Shobe, L.W. Bailey, Geo. W. Eckley, A.T. Reeve, C.M. Leggett, Richard Blake, Patrick McCann, L.H. Morgan, H.J. Mitchell, James Van Horn, David Allen, John R. Hartgraves and William Tharp. Mr. Mitchell is still a resident of the county, living at Hampton.

The first death in the county was that of Mr. Webb at Mayne's Grove, in April, 1854.

The first school taught was in the summer of 1854, in a log cabin in Mayne's Grove by Miss Octavia Smith, who afterwards became Mrs. H.J. Mitchell and now resides with her husband at Hampton. Of the pupils who attended that school three are at present residents of the county: Mrs. H.A. Clock who resides at Hampton; her sister Mrs. R.E. Train, residing at Dows, and Joab S. Mulkins, residing in Reeve township.

The first marriage license issued was to Daniel B. Martin and Nancy Garner, August 9, 1855.

On the 4th of July, 1854, a report reached the settlement at Mayne's Grove that a large body of Indians was approaching the settlement. The settlers gathered in a body, but concluding their number was too small to risk a battle, they all made a hasty march to the next nearest settlement, which was at Beaver Grove, in Butler county. In about three weeks, after sending scouts ahead, all came back. No Indians had been there, at least nothing had been disturbed, and it was evident the alarm had been a false one.

The county was organized in 1855, the election of officers being in August. Prior to this the county had been attached first to Chickasaw county and afterwards to Hardin county for judicial purposes. The first officers elected were as follows: James B. Reeve, county judge; S.R. Mitchell, county clerk; Isaac Miller, treasurer and recorder; Solomon Staley, sheriff; Henry Shroyer, school fund commission; Q.A. Jordon, coroner; and C.M. Leggett, justice of the peace.

The county seat was first located at a point two miles south of the site of the present town of Hampton, but failed to give satisfaction so an election was called and the question submitted of removing it to the new town of Benjamin. The election was held April 7, 1856, and the proposition carried, so Benjamin became the county seat. Its name was afterwards changed to Hampton.

~Source: Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol VII, January 1909; The Boundary History of the Counties of Iowa, pg 16

Franklin County was established by an act of the State legislature approved on January 15, 1851. Its boundaries have never been altered since first defined.

The territory within the borders of Franklin had formerly belonged to the original counties of Fayette and Buchanan, both of which were established in 1837. The southern fourth of the county belonged to Buchanan; the northern three-fourths to Fayette.

Most of the area of Franklin County was ceded by the Sac and Fox Indians to the United States by a treaty signed July 15, 1830. The northwest corner was ceded at the same time by the Medewakanton, Wahpekuta, Wahpeton and Sisseton bands of the Sioux. These two cessions made up the famous "Neutral Ground," within which all of Franklin County except the southeastern corner came. This corner was acquired from the Sac and Fox Indians on October 11, 1842, part of it lying east and part of it west of the line of division by which this cession was divided into two parts.

~Source: Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol XX, July, 1922;
The Organization of Counties During the Period of Statehood, pg 83-84

Franklin County, one of the fifty established in 1851, was subsequently attached to Chickasaw and Hardin counties. The authorities differ as to which of these two counties finally authorized organization.

From the legislative enactments, however, it is clear that Franklin County, together with Mitchell, Howard, Floyd, and Worth counties, was attached to Chickasaw County on January 22, 1853, and that Franklin County was attached to Hardin on January 28, 1855. Thus it would be within the authority of the judge of Hardin County to call the election for organization.

In the history of Franklin and Cerro Gordo counties, however, it is said that there were conflicting claims and that both of the above named counties claimed authority to organize. The author continues by saying: "It is known, however, that in July, 1855, the county judge of Chickasaw county issued an order for holding an election in Franklin county, and that on the 5th of August, 1855, the election was held at the house of James B. Reeve." However this may be, the election was held on the date mentioned and James B. Reeve was elected judge.

After the election, John Mitchell, one of the judges of the election, is said to have gone to Bradford, the county seat of Chickasaw County, to take the election returns. The newly elected judge and treasurer traveled all the way to Davenport to secure books and blanks for county use. The first business of record was transacted when the county court convened on March 3, 1856.

Source: Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol XXII, April, 1924; The Location of County Seats in Iowa, pg 35-36

Franklin County.—Franklin was one of the fifty counties whose boundaries were established in 1851. The county was organized in August, 1855, at which time county officers were elected.

James B. Reeve was elected to the office of county judge, and for a time his home was made the principal place for transacting business. It was not long, however, until there was a desire to secure a permanent location for the county seat and a petition was presented to the district judge asking for the appointment of commissioners to select a desirable site. The settlers had decided whom they wanted appointed as commissioners, but the judge took the matter into his own hands and made the appointments without regard to the wishes of the settlers. Adam T. Ault, M. M. Trumbull, and J. D. Thompson were the commissioners appointed.

Mr. Trumbull favored a location near the center of the county, at the present site of Hampton. The other two members of the commission—evidently influenced by interested parties—voted against Mr. Trumbull and located the county seat on the farm of Thomas B. Abel, giving it the name of Jefferson.

This location did not prove satisfactory and in April, 1856, a vote was taken upon the question of removing the county seat to the new town of Benjamin. This was carried — only two votes being cast in favor of Jefferson. This change was accordingly made, and the name Benjamin was subsequently changed to Hampton.

This, however, was not the end of the county seat struggle, for at the February term of court in 1857 a petition was presented asking that at the April election the question of removal be again submitted to the voters of the county. A remonstrance was also presented, and since the judge ruled in favor of the latter, the question did not come to a vote.

Another attempt was made to change the location, when a petition was presented to Judge James B. Reeve in January, 1858, but this petition, like the former one, was met by a remonstrance and was denied. In March, 1860, an attempt was made to secure a vote upon the question of a removal from Hampton to Maysville. This attempt failed.

The same question was presented in June of the same year, and after several days had been spent in arguing the question, an order for submitting the question at the April election in 1862 was obtained. The people, however, still seemed to favor Hampton as the county seat: an injunction was secured restraining the vote upon the question, and the county seat remained undisturbed.

Source: Iowa and the Counties of Iowa, by Remely Glass, 1940; pg 40-41

Franklin County (Thirty-five)
Established: January 15, 1851
County Seat: Hampton
Organized: 1855
Population: 1856 —780; 1930 —16,382

The Third General Assembly formed Franklin County out of far-flung Fayette in 1851 and named it for the great statesman, scientist and philosopher, Benjamin Franklin, and well do I remember the mural on the east wall of the court room showing his benign face. For a time attached to Chickasaw and to Hardin Counties, it was organized in 1855.

Franklin County, one of the most fertile counties in the state, slopes generally to the east, being drained by small streams which, except for the Iowa River, originate in the county and form a part of the Cedar River system. The eastern portion of the county was last covered by the Iowan Glacial Drift while the more recent Wisconsin Drift passed over the western portion. Both
of these ice sheets brought many large granite boulders which dot the landscape. Much of the land is overlaid with windblown loess as well as glacial detritus and the marginal moraines of the Wisconsin Ice Sheet.

In reading the descriptions of the geologic features of Franklin County, it is interesting to notice the emphasis placed upon building stone by the early writers such as Dr. White and Professor Calvin. Many of the earlier buildings over the county were constructed of native stone. The early writers also recognized the availability of high grades of clay suitable for the manufacture of brick and tile. Various plants were operated, while the Sheffield plants have developed into an important industrial enterprise.

In the fall of 1852 James B. Rivers, John Mayne and Addison Phelps filed on claims in the timber in the eastern part of the county. These early settlers had an abundance of perils and dangers. In 1855 in a raging blizzard one Thomas Downs was frozen to death on the unsettled prairie. At another time rumors of Indian raids caused the settlers to retire in haste to Butler
County, only to find that their fears were groundless.

The first seat of justice was located about six miles south of the present town of Hampton, at Maysville, but it was soon moved to the town of Benjamin (now Hampton) which must have been so named to give additional honor to "Poor Richard."

The history of Iowa counties of necessity deals with "first" things, and among the unique first things in Franklin County was the first herd of pure bred Holstein cattle west of the Mississippi. It was established by W. B. Barney in the early Seventies just south of Hampton and later moved near Chapin. The offspring of that early herd are still found on the Barney farm, while its pure blood has done a great deal for the dairy industry in North Iowa.

Rear Admiral William D. Leahy of the United States Navy, former Chief of Naval Operations, now retired, was born in Hampton. He has recently been appointed Governor of Puerto Rico, which is now being made an important center for naval air forces in the plans for defense of the Panama Canal.



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