HISTORY: Grundy County
From the A.T. Andreas Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875


In the heart of that magnificent belt of country which lies between the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, and the Iowa Division of the Illinois Central, having for its eastern boundary the Cedar River and for its western the Iowa, is Grundy County, which, though comparatively little known, is yet wealthy. Without having its praises extolled, it has quietly worked its way forward, and without noise or parade has opened wide its arms to a small, but loyal, enterprising and wealthy population. With its surface of high rolling prairie, without swamps, with an exhaustless soil, with a healthy, bracing air that makes the blood leap with a new vigor of health, no county in the state can outrank it in agricultural capabilities, resources or advantages. The face of the land is of that gently undulating character which breaks away from the view in an unending roll and wave of blight hills and shallow valleys. No place in the county- with the slight exception of a basin marked out by the sluggish Black Hawk as it leaves the county at the eastern boundary—is there any variation from the rolling surface. The land is well watered. Creeks, brooks and spring branches traverse its surface as regularly as if they had been marked out by a shepherd's hand; and the great Drainage Commissioner has furnished natural ditches in the sloughs that carry the water from every farm out to the receiving tributaries of larger size. The greater portion of the county lies in the Cedar Valley—the divide between that stream and the Iowa being within from one to eight miles of the western line. The water is of most excellent quality and taste, and without any ague—breeding or disease—fetching faults.


The soil is of that rich black loam found in all the fertile districts of Iowa, and has the peculiar virtue of alike standing the ravages of drought, or the continuous floods that fall in wet seasons. Since the plow first furrowed its surface, it has never failed to bring forth in abundance,
and yearly has blessed the husbandman with harvests that sent the cart "groaning beneath its heaves" to the granary. While the soil has such a preponderating element of sand in its composition that the plowman never has to wait for it to dry after the heaviest shower of rain that comes with the most terrific thunder storms of the season, it also has the desirable mixture of clayey substance which makes the wheat field as fruitful as the corn, and oats more bountiful than either. It is no uncommon thing for the good farmers to raise a corn crop of eighty and ninety bushels to the acre, wheat crops of twenty-five to thirty, and oats to the almost marvelous amount of sixty and seventy, and even eighty bushels. What is true of all the better portions of Iowa prairie, is eminently true in regard to Grundy County, which has neither the vexatious stone of smaller size, or the large lost rocks which are found in some parts.


This is emphatically a prairie county, the government surveys only returning three thousand six hundred acres of timber on its borders. The best portion of this is Fifteen mile Grove in the southeast, and Hickory Grove, on the Black Hawk Creek, near the center, all of which were formerly good timber, but the main portion is now of that stunted and scattered character of the hazel or oak barren kind. Fine groves of maple, cottonwood, willow and other fast growing varieties have been planted throughout the county, dotting its broad expanse of undulating prairie. The Black Hawk Creek, rising near the center of the western boundary, passes through Grundy Center, and leaves the county in the southeast township. By a series of dams, good water power could be obtained at any point below Grundy Center. Small bodies of timber skirt this stream, and are also found along the Beaver in the northwest, and on the Wolf in the southeast. The Bear Creek, in the southwest, and some others, are destitute of timber. While this almost total absence of timber was of course a severe drawback to its early settlement, and is in a great measure answerable for the slow progress it made, many of its most intelligent citizens now claim that it was a special advantage. No one of sound judgment can deny the vast benefits which must eventually result from having a county which nature has prepared as one great plow field, unincumbered with the breaks of forest bluffs, or the stumps and debris of wood lands. It is thus unrolled as a great scroll, whose every section is ready for the pencil of agriculture to mark it out into valuable and productive farms. Its broad fields are now being well occupied with thrifty, enterprising, wealthy agriculturists, who are rapidly transforming its unproductive fields into such farms as the Garden State of Iowa alone can produce. The coal beds which are mined in the adjoining county of Hardin, on the west, are supposed to extend into Grundy, but the coal doubtless lies deep. No exposures of rock are found in any part of the county.


William D. Peck was the first white man who erected a cabin within the limits of Grundy County, the date of that event being October 4, 1853, and the location section 6, township 89, and range 15, in what is now called Franklin Township, in the northeast part of the county. The same month, but some two weeks later, John Freal built a cabin on Black Hawk Creek, in the eastern part of the county, where he afterward kept a sort of a tavern, it being on the main road from Grundy Center to Waterloo, which, owing to his slothful appearance, was called by the expressive name of "The Unwashed Man's House." Thomas G. Hoxie was the first to settle in the middle portion of the county, locating in the vicinity of Grundy Center, in the Summer of 1855. The fifth settler in the county was Hon. C. F. Clarkson, who was the pioneer of the western part, where he pitched his tent May 1, 1855, and set his plow to work on what has since blossomed into the widely celebrated "Melrose Farm," a handsome view of which is shown in this work.


The county was organized in 1856. The first officers were; Thomas G. Copp, Treasurer; Elias Marble, Clerk; A. W. Lawrence, County Judge; T. G. Hoxie, Sheriff; and C. F. Clarkson, Prosecuting Attorney. At this first election there were one hundred votes cast, of which John C. Fremont received ninety-nine and James Buchanan one. This one vote was cast by John Freal, of the Unwashed Man's House, but as he could not write he had to depend upon the honesty of the Republicans to write out his vote for him. When the ballot was given him with the electors names at the head of the ticket in the usual form, he was afraid that it was some "black Republican chenanegan," and so tore them off, and would have nothing on his ticket whatever but James Buchanan's name. Thus it will be seen that the pioneer Democrat of Grundy County was true to his instincts and party.


The county seat was located at Grundy Center in the Winter of 1856-7, and the first district court was held there in a log house in 1857, by Hon. J. D. Thompson, of Eldora.


Although there has as yet been no railroad constructed within the limits of Grundy County, yet it enjoys advantages for communicating with the outer world equal to many counties that can boast of their railroad facilities. The Iowa division of the Illinois Central runs the whole length of the northern border, while the Chicago and Northwestern rolls along only ten miles away on the south, and the Central, of Iowa, which crosses the I.C.R.R. at Ackley, near the northwest corner of the county, runs south at an average distance of three miles from the western boundary line. The great trading places are Cedar Falls and Waterloo, in Black Hawk; Ackley, in Hardin; and Marshalltown, in Marshall County.


During the war the county furnished about one hundred and thirty soldiers—but sent no company to the field. Situated as it was, Black Hawk, Marshall, Hardin, and Butler county organizations drew in Grundy by piece—meal and left it without even an organized squad of its own. The soldiers of this county, like their heroic compatriots in every part of the state, fought their battles well; and many of them today sleep on the same field where they proved their heroism.


WILLIAM C. WILLIAMS, Auditor. FRANK G. MOFFETT, Clerk of Courts.
EMILE H. BECKMAN, Treasurer. S. REA RAYMOND, Recorder.
LEVI DILLY, Sheriff. GEORGE R. STODDARD, Supt. of Com. School.
L. D. TRACY, Chairman of Board of Supervisors.


This place is located on Blackhawk Creek, near the geographical center of the county. It is situated on a high rolling prairie, with a beautiful and fertile region stretching around it in all directions as far as the eye can reach. The first settlement was made here in 1855, and at the close of this year there were several houses in the village. The name of the place was once changed to Orion, but for some reason the new name seems not to have been recognized, as that of Grundy Center has always been used in all official papers and documents. In 1861, a newspaper was started here, called The Pioneer, but was continued only about one year. This was the first paper in the county. Mr. Hartman was the publisher and J. M. Chaffer, editor. The Grundy County Atlas was established April 17, 1868, by Hon. L. D. Tracey, who, after running it one year, sold to E. C. Peckham, who conducted the establishment until February 8, 1870, when it passed into the hands of George K. Shaw, and on the 14th day of the following June, L. D. Tracy again took control, which he only continued a short time when he sold, October 4, 1870 to the present proprietors, Rea & Moffett. The Atlas is a neat eight—column paper, Republican in politics, has a good circulation, and is the only newspaper published in the county. Several years ago a good court house was erected, the contract price for which was $10,000.