IAGenWeb Project

Hamilton County IAGenWeb

Transcribed for the IAGenWeb Project by Janelle Martin, August 2002

A.T. Andreas’ Historical Atlas
of the State of Iowa

Published by the Andreas Atlas Co., Lakeside Building, Chicago, Ills 1875

County Histories
Hamilton County


This county was originally a part of Webster County, but the Legislature of 1856-7 erected it into a separate county, with Webster City as its county seat.

The county has thirteen townships; one called Lincoln was taken from the east part of Lyon, by the supervisors, in 1875. Like most Iowa counties, the greater part consists of high rolling prairie, with a small amount of timber along the streams. The Boone River flows along the western boundary from north to south, and has numerous mill sites. In various parts of the county, on the prairie lands, are found spring-ponds, which really deserve the name of lakes. They abound in fish, and at times are visited by flocks of wild fowl.

Owing to convenience of water and excellent quality of pasturage, it has few equals as a stock region. The soil of the high prairies is of great fertility, and adapted to raising both corn and wheat. Both limestone and building stone are quite common in various parts of the county, and very accessible. The limestone quarry of Mr. Briggs, three miles from Webster City, is especially noticeable.


The reports made of the census of 1875 show an increase of about twelve thousand acres of cultivated land during the year. Of course this implies a large amount of new fencing and other improvements accompanying this increased tillage. Larger and improved residences meet the eye in every direction, in the midst of highly cultivated fields, while large herds of cattle graze on the beautiful prairie. Most of the people are from the Eastern and Middle States, especially along the northern half of the county. In the southeast part are many families of Swedes and Norwegians, with fine improved farms.


Wilson Brewer, and Nathan and William Stanley were the first settlers in the present limits of the county. Brewer came in November, 1850 and located near where Webster City now is, on forty acres, to which was added another forty and in connection with William Frake laid out the village of Newcastle; but sold out in 1856 to the Willson brothers, who have since done much to improve the city.

In 1851 Peter Lyon, Isaac Hook, Jacob Crooks, S. Bell and others, settled along the Boone River.

In September 1852, E. Russell settled on the same river, and since that date the county has rapidly settled up in all parts.

The first settlers were obliged to go to Des Moines for all supplies, and the nearest mill was ten miles north of that city. No Indians were seen by the settlers until some six years after the first settlement, and no depredations were ever committed by them.

The first mill was built on the Boone River, on section thirty-one, near Homer. The two burrs were brought on a wagon from Indiana in the year 1852. This mill was soon after washed out by high water. The next was a saw and grist mill combined, built by Gross Close in 1852, and afterwards known as the Fisher mills. It was on section fifteen, on Boone River. The third mill erected was a flouring mill, built by Eckerson. It is still standing, and known as the Atherton mill. There are now in the county seven grist and eight saw mills.

John D. Maxwell was the first county judge; and Isaiah Doane, Esq., served for six years, and until the office was abolished.

Charles Leonard was the first sheriff. These first officers were elected at a special election held in April, 1857.

Cyrus Smith was the first treasurer and recorder of the county, as well as the first post master of Webster City. He is now a prominent merchant of that city. He opened the first store there in 1855.

p. 460

The first white person born in the county, as at present organized, was Leander Brewer, in November 1851.

The first marriage was that of Mr. John Drought, a soldier from Fort Dodge, to Miss L. Stanley, in 1852.

The first death is supposed to be that of William Stanley, one of the first settlers, who died in 1852, leaving a widow and children.

The first school was taught in a log house three miles north of Webster City, in 1854, by John Hancock; and the next year Newton Hathaway taught the Webster City school, in the frame building, 20x30, since moved, and now used as a dwelling.

The first minister, Reverend Mr. Skinner, came from Des Moines, and preached in the private house of W. C. Wilson once in two weeks, beginning in June, 1855.

The first regular physician was Doctor H. Corbin, who located at Homer; and here, also, was opened the first law office, by Granville Bickley, now of Georgetown, Colorado.

A County Agricultural Society was organized in 1859, with W. W. Brooke, Esq., as President, and has been in operation ever since. The society own their grounds (of ten acres), near Webster City, which are enclosed and fitted up.


There is hardly a settlement in the county that does not support a good school for at least a part of the year. In 1874, there were eighty schools taught in the county; 2,639 children drew public money. The school buildings were values at $40,000, and are situated as follows: Boone, nine; Blairsburg, seven; Cass, seven; Clear Lake, four; Fremont, seven; Ellsworth, three; Hamilton, seven; Lyons, five; Marion, eight; Rose Grove, four; Scott, four; Webster, six; Homer Village, one, and Webster City, four. The cost of maintaining these schools was $16, 026. An average of four new schoolhouses are erected each year.


A new and beautiful courthouse is being erected at Webster City. It is of handsome design, and will be the finest in northwestern Iowa, costing some $35,000. The county was fortunate enough to have what is known as swamp lands, from the sale of which the building was constructed and no tax levied, or debt incurred. It will thus be noticed that the county is in excellent financial condition.


Charles Wickware, County Auditor

A. A. Wicks, Clerk of the Courts

John Eckstein, Treasurer

J. V. Kearns, Recorder

L. Bickford, Sheriff

C.A. Howd, Superintendent of Schools

M.L. Tracy, County Surveyor

F.J. McConnell, Coroner


J. A. Cooper, Ellsworth Township; H. Corbin, Chairman, Webster Township; J.W. Lee, Cass Township.


One of the most important resources of Hamilton County is the vast supply of coal within its borders. In many places below Webster City, on the Boone River, it is found cropping out of the banks in layers, or veins, from one to four feet thick. Not much attention has, as yet, been given to these coal beds, nor will they be much developed until a railroad makes an outlet for the supply, and capitalists are encouraged to develop the mines. So far as worked, the conclusion is arrived at that the coal is fully equal to the average of western coal, and comparatively free from impurities.

The following extract, referring to the quantity and quality of coal found along the banks of Boone River, in Hamilton County, is taken from the report for the year 1868 of the State Geologist, Charles A. White, M.D. Speaking of his investigation of the Boone River coal region, he says; "Going down Boone River, the first exposure seen was on the right bank in the hillside about four miles from town (Webster City). The coal is of good quality, has been worked to a considerable extent, and the bed is said to be four feet thick, which no reason was seen to doubt. Between this point and Sternburg’s mill, which is four miles from town, the same bed of bituminous coal again appears, as does a bed of cannel coal two feet in thickness, and of fair quality. The latter bed lies several feet beneath the former, and is of course no way connected with it. Near Sternburg’s mill, and also at various points, for a number of miles below the mill, the coal makes its appearance in the banks where they are rendered steep by the washing of the river. These beds are continuous in broad, continuous layers beneath the surface, over a large area, and have become exposed to view, in places, by the deepening of the river valley by its own stream. They may doubtless be reached, with comparatively little labor, from the gentler slopes of the river valley; and when the demand will warrant, as it probably will in the future, they may be mined by sluking shafts to them from the higher lands away from the river.”


This is the county seat; situated on the Boone River, in the northwestern part of the county. It is about 175 miles from the Mississippi River, and about twenty-four hours’ ride from Chicago by the Illinois Central, which passes through the northern part of the county. In many respects the city is well located, and surrounded by groves of timber, which afford protection from the piercing prairie winds. The population is estimated at 1,800 and of a quiet, Industrious class. The buildings erected of late years are of a superior class of both wood and brick. Among the many private residences we may especially mention those of K. Young, Esq., (banker), L. Cary (merchant), Capt. G. H. Soules, L. L. Estes, and T. E. McCracken, editor of the Freeman.

There are several fine brick blocks, among them is the post office block, lately completed. It was erected by a stock company and is a very substantial brick edifice. There are six churches. The Methodist, erected in 1866, is of brick, and cost some $5,000. The Congregational is a very handsome wooden building, constructed in 1869. The Catholics have a good brick church. The others are Baptist, Dutch Reformed and Universalist. The latter has just been erected, and is a neat wooden structure, with tall spire, and of modern style. The architect was John Hill, of Webster City.

There are two banking houses. Of these, the First National was organized in October 1871, with a capital stock of $50,000. They own a substantial brick building, filled up with vaults and other banking conveniences. K. Young, Esq., is President, and B. S. Mason, Cashier.

The Hamilton County Bank was organized in 1866, and is the oldest bank west of Iowa Falls, except one at Fort Dodge. It is a private banking institution, conducted on the partnership plan, with B.F. Miller, Esq., Manager.

There is a large public school building built of brick, conveniently arranged, and divided into three departments. There are also three small wooden school buildings, situated for the convenience of the primary departments.

There are two foundries and machine shops, one brewery, three large elevators, three or four hotels, and the usual quota of merchants and dealers in various kinds of goods.

For beauty of scenery Webster City cannot be surpassed. The building of contemplated railroads, reaching the coalmines near the city, will add largely to the business of the city and rapidly increase its population and importance.


The first newspaper of the county was established here in June 1857 by Charles Aldrich, and called the Hamilton Freeman. The paper is now managed by T. E. McCracken, editor and proprietor, and is one of the most readable papers in that section of the state. It is all printed at home.

The Webster City Argus has just completed its first year. It has a very large advertising patronage, and also extensive home news items, which go far towards making the local newspaper valuable. It is independent in its position, and ably managed by Messrs. Edwards & Bundy as editors and proprietors.

L. L. Estes, Esq., was the first mayor of the city.

Blairsburg — This village, on the line of the Illinois Central Railroad, was settled in 1869 by Robert Tinling. It is about eight miles east of Webster City. It was laid out in the Fall of 1869 by John I. Blair, of New York one of the great railroad men. The village lots are mainly owned by the railroad company. This village is now beginning to grow and substantial improvements are being made. The country around is a level prairie, thinly settled, but is beautiful and valuable for farming purposes. This village and Williams are both in Blairsburg Township, and the population of the township, by census of 1875, is 453.

Williams – This place was settled by Peter Laforge, who came there in 1868, but the town was laid out by John I. Blair the next year. It is on the Illinois Central Railroad three miles from the eastern line of the county. Its growth has been very slow until the last year or two, at the present time a large number of buildings are being erected. Five years ago the number of registered voters was thirty-four, and in 1875 it was only ninety one. The Williams Press was established at this place in 1875 by J. A. Matthews, and is calling attention of people to the advantages of that locality as a place of residence.

Homer – Homer is in the southwestern part of the county, ten miles from Webster City, and has a population of 250. There are several stores and other business houses. It was formerly the county seat, at the time Hamilton was a part of Webster County. It is on the prairie, three miles east of the Des Moines River and the same distance from the Boone River. The removal of the county seat naturally detracted from the amount of business done at that point, and the building of the railroad in the north part of the county diminished it still more. There is a good schoolhouse and graded school.

Hook’s Point is where Isaac Hook opened the first store in the county in 1852. Lakin’s Grove, Poland’s Grove, Rose Grove, Saratoga, and Randall are post offices, accommodating different sections of the county.