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Linn County History from 1895 Atlas

Updated July 27, 2012

Linn County was named in honor of Senator Lewis S. Linn, of Missouri, and was organized in November, 1837, while Iowa was yet a part of Wisconsin Territory. The county is made up of twenty congressional townships, is twenty-four miles east and west by thirty miles north and south, and comprises one of the most fertile territories within the State.

The county is traversed by the Cedar and Wapsipinicon rivers, and abounds in rich, undulating prairie land interspersed with beautiful natural groves, which have been added to by artificial groves and hedges until the entire county presents the appearance of a beautiful, well-kept park.

In the rural districts the principal occupations are stock raising and dairying, and for the manufacture of the dairy product the county is well supplied with creameries, condensed milk factories, cheese factories, etc., the product of which ranks with the very best and commands the highest price.

There are some very fine limestone formations which furnish a good quality of building stone, also making it possible, at a very little expense, to macadamize many of the principal roads and highways of the county.

The first white man to settle in Linn County was Edward M. Crow, who located in what is now Buffalo Township in July, 1837. The first white woman to settle in the county was Sarah Mann, who located with her father on Big Creek in February, 1838.

During the year 1838 about fifty families chose Linn County as their home. The years 1839, 1840, 1841 and 1842 brought each a larger number of settlers than the preceding year, and during the winter of 1841 and 1842 the first school was opened in what was known as Otter Creek settlement, and taught by Wm. Skinner. Prior to this time, and during the year 1840, the first sermon was preached at the home of Terry Oliphant, also in Otter Creek settlement, by the Rev. Mr. Hodges, who was a circuit rider in the Methodist Church.

The first election in the county was held in August, 1839, the only voting precinct being at West Port, near what is now Bertram. At this election County Commissioners were elected who had about the same powers as those now held by the Board of Supervisors.

The Commissioners met for the first time on September 9, 1839, in the house of James W. Willits, which, as a matter of courtesy, was called the county seat The first act of the commission was to appoint John C. Berry as county clerk, after which they proceeded to name the county seat, the name of Marion being chosen in honor of General Marion of revolutionary fame. At the second meeting of the commission, which was held in October of the same year, Ross McCloud was appointed county surveyor and was given the job of laying out the county seat into lots. At this meeting the first license ever issued in the county was given to Woodbridge & Thompson for the sum of $15.00, allowing them to sell general merchandise. At the November session the land for the county seat was purchased of the government and ordered sold for the benefit of the county.

In 1840 the county jail was built, followed the next year by the building of the court house. The first assessment roll amounted to $738.60. The first treasurer's report showed moneys collected to the amount of $958.85. From these small beginnings the county has grown to a population of over 60,000, and has an assessment roll which brings in a yearly revenue of over $325.000.

For a great many years the Cedar river and wagon trains were the only means of transportation from Linn county to the markets in the south and east. The first railroad was completed to Cedar Rapids in 1859, and gave Linn county a through railroad connection with the Chicago market, which has since that time been the principal market for her products. After the C. & N. W. R'y, the next road to build into Linn county was the C., M. & St. P., which built into Marion in 1864 and shortly after into Cedar Rapids. The b., C. R. & N. was built through the county in 1870 and still has its general offices in the city of Cedar Rapids. It has been one of the greatest factors in developing the county not only giving it the best north and south connections, but bringing to it the competition of two other east and west trunk lines, namely, the C., R. I. & P. and C., B. & Q., which both do through billing over its lines.

Linn county made prompt and repealed responses to the call for troops during the war of the rebellion, furnishing Company K of the First Iowa Volunteers on a week's notice from S. J. Kirkwood, the war governor of Iowa. Linn county also furnished a veteran of two previous wars, Thomas McKean, a graduate of West Point, who was appointed a brigadier general. General McKean planned and commanded the battle of Corinth. The memory of the soldier is perpetuated by several Grand Army organizations in which the Women's Relief Corps figure conspicuously.

From the log school house of 1840 the educational interest of the county has developed into over 200 district and ward schools, half a dozen high schools, three academies and three colleges, including one of the best business colleges in the world.

In its banking interests and newspaper projects Linn county is the peer of any territory of its size in the state. Its development in this direction is so well known as to need no mention in this place. There are several building and loan associations and savings institutions in the county, each doing a good, conservative, safe business. Almost all fraternal organizations are represented in the county, and the only Masonic Library in the world is located in the city of Cedar Rapids.

St. Luke's Hospital is located in the same city, and while sectarian in its management, admits people of all classes, and is not only the pride of the church which supports it but of the city and county in which it is located.

Next to the largest packing house in the world is located in the city of Cedar Rapids and enters into successful competition with the eastern packers for one of tin: principal products of the Iowa farm.

Linn county has many other institutions worthy of mention, but in a history as limited as is this it is not possible to give them
the notice they deserve. There are many individuals within the county who have been so related lo the state and nation that in a more extended history should and would receive personal mention. The present standing and development of the county is well known to all those to whom this brief outline of Linn comity's history and progress will come. Regretting the limitations of this sketch, and with a faith in and bust wishes for the future development of the county, this brief history is brought to a close.

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