History of Marion County, Iowa by Wright and Young (1915)

Chapter XXI - Statistical Review

Population - Official Census Reports - General Industrial Conditions - Chronology -
A Summary of Principal Events Connected with Marion County History - Postscript

On May 1, 1914, seventy-one years had elapsed since the first land in what is now Marion County was opened to the white man’s settlement, and sixty-nine years have passed since the organization of the county under the provisions of the act of the Iowa Territorial Legislature, approved June 10, 1845. The growth in population, as shown by the United States census reports since 1850, the first official census taken after the county was organized, is shown in the following table:

1850 5,482
1860 16,318
1870 24,436
1880 25,111
1890 23,058
1900 24,159
1910 22,995

From the time the first white people settled in the county until 1850 the population grew to 5,482. Since 1850 the greatest proportionate increase during any decade was from 1850 t0 1860, when it was nearly two hundred per cent. A glance at the above table shows that from 1880 to 1890 there was a decrease in population, and again between 1900 and 1910. The decrease in population during these periods was due chiefly to the opening of new lands in other parts of the country. As population increases in any community the value of land advances and the man of moderate means finds it difficult to acquire a home of his own. The opening of Oklahoma in the decade between 1880 and 1890 attracted many people to that state; others found homes in Nebraska, Colorado and other states where Indian reservations were thrown open to settlement, and some went to Canada. All parts of the county were affected about alike by the decrease, with the exception of a few townships in which the principal cities are located or the development of the mining industry brought in new inhabitants to take the place of those who moved away. This fact is shown by a comparison of the last three official census reports relating to population, as given in the following table:

Township 1890 1900 1910
Clay 1,125 1,264 1,321
Dallas 1,066 1,140 980
Franklin 822 789 631
Indiana 1,000 995 775
Knoxville 5,615 5,688 5,626
Lake Prairie 4,621 4,461 4,648
Liberty 1,423 2,431 2,998
Perry 510 553 351
Pleasant Grove 1,495 1,594 1,460
Polk 659 666 555
Red Rock 1,003 824 693
Summit 1,137 1,218 952
Swan 1,055 940 750
Union 540 553 425
Washington 986 1,043 830
TOTAL 23,058 24,159 22,995

In the above table the City of Knoxville is included in Knoxville Township, Pella in Lake Prairie Township, and the several incorporated towns in the townships in which they are located. Since the census of 1910 was taken a new railroad has been built through the western part of the county and it is quite probable that the state census of 1915 will show an increase in the population of Pleasant Grove, Franklin and Dallas townships. Notwithstanding the decrease in population, the wealth of the county, as shown by the tax lists, has not declined.

According to statistics taken from the Iowa Official Register, the Iowa Year Book and the United States census, Marion County has over fifteen hundred miles of telephone lines, approximately one hundred and twenty miles of railroad, twenty banks, eighteen money order post offices, 1,948 farms of 144 acres each, two incorporated cities and eight incorporated towns. During the year 1913 the sum of $98,535.57 was expended in the maintenance of the public schools of the county, and nearly fifty thousand dollars on the improvement of the public highways.


In the foregoing chapters a conscientious effort has been made to present to the reader an account of the progress of Marion County, showing her development along industrial, educational, professional and religious line, as well the part she has borne in the political and military affairs of the state and nation. Like every county, this development has been a gradual evolution, influence by events that at first glance may seem to be only indirect or remotely connected with the county’s history, yet each one of which played its part, little or great, in shaping her destiny. As a fitting conclusion to this work, it is deemed proper to include the following list of the principal events leading up to the settlement and organization of the county, as well as many incidents that have occurred since the county was organized, and which have some bearing on local history and should be of interest to the Marion County reader.

June 25, 1673 Marquette and Joliet, while on their voyage down the Mississippi River, landed near the present town of Montrose, Lee County. So far as known they were the first white men to set foot upon the soil of Iowa.
November 2, 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau, by which France ceded all that part of Louisiana lying west of the Mississippi to Spain.
February 10, 1703 Treaty of Paris, which concluded the French and Indian war and ratified the treaty of Fontainebleau. By this treaty the territory now comprising the State of Iowa became a Spanish possession.
1778 The British posts at Kaskaskia, Cahokia and Vincennes captured by Gen. George Rogers Clark. Through this conquest of the Northwest the western boundary of the United States was fixed at the Mississippi River by the treaty which concluded the Revolution.
1788 Julien Dubuque established a trading house and opened the lead mines at the city which now bears his name. He was the first white man to effect a permanent settlement in what is now the State of Iowa.
1796 Louis Honore Tesson settled on a grant of land obtained from the Spanish Government where the town of Montrose, Lee County, is now situated.
October 1, 1800 Louisiana ceded back to France by Spain by the Treaty of St. Ildefonso.
April 30, 1803 Treaty of Paris, by which Louisiana was sold to the United States for $15,000,000.
October 31, 1803 Congress passed an act authorizing the President to take possession of Louisiana and establish a territorial government therein. The province was formally turned over to the United States commissioners - Gov. W. C. C. Claiborne and Gen. James Wilkinson - at New Orleans, December 20, 1803.
October 1, 1804 Louisiana divided, the northern part, which includes the present State of Iowa, was designated the District of Louisiana and made subject to the government of the Territory of Indiana.
November 4, 1805 Treaty with the Sac and Fox Indians, by which those tribes ceded their lands east of the Mississippi to the United States.
1805 Lieut. Zebulan M. Pike made a voyage of exploration up the Mississippi River under the auspices of the United States. Pike landed at several places along the eastern border of the state, one of which was the site of the present city of Burlington.
1807 The territory now included in the State of Iowa was attached to the Territory of Illinois.
June 4, 1812 Iowa made a part of the Territory of Missouri.
September 13, 1815 Treaty of peace with the Sac and Fox Indians, some of the warriors of the allied tribes having fought with the British in the War of 1812.
July 15, 1830 The Sacs and Foxes and Sioux Indians each ceded to the United States a strip twenty miles wide in Northeastern Iowa, extending from the Mississippi to the Des Moines River. this was the first land in what is now Iowa ceded to the United States. It was intended to mark the boundary between the tribes and was known as the “Neutral Ground.”
September 21, 1831 Treaty of Fort Armstrong, by which the Sacs and Foxes ceded to the United States the strip forty miles wide across Eastern Iowa known as the “Black Hawk Purchase.”
August 2, 1832 Last battle of the Black Hawk war, resulting in the overwhelming defeat of the Indians.
1832 In the fall of this year Samuel White settled within the limits of the present city of Burlington.
June 1, 1883 Title to the lands of the Black Hawk Purchase becomes fully vested in the United States. This was the first land in the state legally opened to white settlement.
1833 First post office in Iowa established at Dubuque, with Milo H. Prentice as postmaster.
June 28, 1834 President Jackson approved the act of Congress attaching Iowa to the Territory of Michigan.
April 10, 1836 Act of Congress making Iowa a part of the Territory of Wisconsin approved by President Jackson.
May 11, 1836 First number of the Dubuque Visitor, the first newspaper in Iowa, issued by John King.
1837 The steamboat Pavillion, Capt. William Phelps, master, ascended the Des Moines River to Fort Dodge. This was the first steamboat to pass through what is now Marion County.
November 6, 1837 A convention assembled at Burlington to memorialize Congress for a division of Wisconsin and the establishment of a new territory west of the Mississippi.
June 12, 1838 President Van Buren approved the act of Congress creating the Territory of Iowa, the act to become effective on July 3, 1838.
October 3, 1838 Chief Black Hawk, the most renowned chief of the Sacs and Foxes, died.
March 15, 1842 Chief Wapello died at the Sac and Fox agency (now Agency City) in the county which bears his name.
October 11, 1842 Treaty at the Sac and Fox agency, by which the allied tribes ceded to the United States a large body of land in Central Iowa, including the present County of Marion.
May 1, 1843 The eastern half of Marion County opened to white settlers.
May 1843 Fort Des Moines established by the Federal Government where the City of Des Moines now stands.
August 23, 1843 Birth of Frances Ruple, the first white child born within the limits of Marion County.
February 12, 1844 The Iowa Legislature passed an act authorizing the election of delegates to a constitutional convention to meet at Iowa City on October 7, 1844.
1845 In the spring of this year a meeting was held at Nathan Bass’ cabin on Lake Prairie to take the preliminary steps for the organization of a new county to be called Marion.
June 10, 1845 Governor Chambers approved the act of the Legislature erecting Marion County.
August 25, 1845 Commissioners appointed by the Legislature to locate the seat of justice of Marion County reported in favor of Knoxville.
September 1, 1845 First election of county officers.
September 12, 1845 First meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Marion County.
October 11, 1845 The western half of the county was opened to white settlers.
January 28, 1846 Contract let to Lewis M. Pierce to build a courthouse for a consideration of $450.
March 2, 1846 Marion County divided into eight election precincts by the county commissioners.
March 30, 1846 First session of the District Court begins in Knoxville, Judge Joseph Williams presiding.
April 14, 1846 The county divided into road districts by the county commissioners and a supervisor appointed for each district.
May 4, 1846 The second constitutional convention met at Iowa City. John Conrey was the delegate for the district composed of Marion, Iowa, Polk and Jasper counties.
July 1846 The first mail route opened to Knoxville.
December 28, 1846 Iowa admitted to the Union as a state.
January 6, 1847 Marion County divided into ten civil townships by order of the county commissioners.
1847 The first members of the Holland colony arrived in Marion County and settled in Lake Prairie Township.
April 1848 Chief Keokuk died in Kansas. In 1883 his remains were brought to the City of Keokuk, Iowa, and buried on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. A monument was erected over his grave in 1913.
August 19, 1848 A claim association organized in Perry Township.
1851 A bill was introduced in the Iowa Legislature to make Pella the capital of the state, but it failed to pass.
June 1851 Great flood along the Des Moines River.
August 4, 1851 Joseph Brobst elected the first county judge, superseding the board of county commissioners.
January 27, 1853 Meeting at the courthouse in Knoxville to take steps to secure a railroad through the county. Two hundred and fifty-three shares of stock were subscribed for at the meeting.
June 1853 Central University at Pella founded.
April 7, 1854 Knoxville incorporated as a city.
October 25-27, 1854 First Iowa State Fair held at Fairfield. In this year the Marion County Agricultural Society was organized.
January 15, 1855 Governor Grimes approved the bill locating the state capital at Des Moines.
February 1, 1855 The Pella Gazette, the first newspaper in Marion County, makes its bow to the public.
August 20, 1855 Pella incorporated as a city.
October 1855 The Knoxville Journal founded by William M. Stone, afterward governor of Iowa.
September 15, 1856 Contract for a new courthouse awarded to the firm of Dyer & Woodruff for $17,500.
January 19, 1857 Third constitutional convention assembled at Iowa City. Hiram D. Gibson was the delegate from Marion County. The convention finished its labors on March 5, 1857, and the constitution was ratified by the people at an election held on the 3d of August following.
November 6, 1860 The first board of supervisors, consisting of one member from each township, elected.
April 12, 1861 Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, fired upon by the Confederates.
April 17, 1861 Proclamation of Governor Kirkwood calling for a regiment of infantry to suppress the rebellion.
June 10, 1861 First Marion County company mustered into the United States volunteer service as Company B, Third Iowa Infantry.
November 3, 1863 William M. Stone, of Marion County, elected governor of Iowa and re-elected two years later.
October 1, 1864 Josiah M. Woodruff, of Knoxville, assassinated in Poweshiek County while serving as deputy provost marshal in the enforcement of the draft laws.
December 15, 1865 The board of county supervisors purchased the Elliott farm, southwest of Knoxville, for a poor farm.
February 9, 1867 The county treasury robbed of over $30,000.
January 1, 1868 Marion County Old Settlers’ Association organized.
October, 1870 First board of county supervisors, consisting of three members, elected.
January 14, 1871 One of the most severe snowstorms in the history of Iowa. The snow drifted to the depth of six or eight feet in places, impeding travel for several days.
December, 1875 The first railroad train arrived at Knoxville. Great rejoicing in the town and vicinity.
October 10, 1876 Second robbery of the county treasury.
1879 The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad completed through the county and to Des Moines.
February 27, 1888 Beginning of the great strike on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy lines.
July 17, 1893 Ex-Gov. William M. Stone died at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was buried at Knoxville on the 21st.
October 7, 1895 Contract for a new courthouse let to Charles A. Moses for $76,991. The building was accepted as complete by the board of supervisors on December 30, 1896.
October 4, 1897 Death of Matanequa, the last war chief of the Sacs and Foxes, at Tama City, Iowa.
May, 1898 Marion County furnishes a company for service in war with Spain.
1900 B. L. Miller’s report on the geology of Marion County published by the Iowa Geological Survey.
November 5, 1912 Presidential election. The vote in Marion County was as follows: Taft (republican), 1,191; Wilson (democrat), 2,276; Roosevelt (progressive), 1,419; Debs (socialist), 297; Chaffin (prohibitionist), 72.


To write of the events of by-gone years; to preserve the record of our ancestors’ mistakes as well as their achievements; to rescue from obscurity the deeds of the brave men and true who built up a civilization in the wilderness, and to tell the story of accomplishment during the last three-quarters of a century have been the objects kept in view in the preparation of this history. In the endeavor to carry out these objects, the editors and publishers desire to say that no effort has been spared to give to the people of Marion County an authentic and comprehensive history - authentic, because so far as possible the official records have been used as sources of information, and comprehensive because, it is believed, no important event in the county’s history has been neglected.

The work has been one involving great care and labor and much of the credit is due to old residents for their ready and willing assistance in the collection of information concerning many of the events herein recorded. The editors and their assistants take this opportunity to express their obligations to the various county officers and their deputies, the editors of several of the county papers, and the librarians of the public libraries at Knoxville and Pella for their uniform courtesies while the work was in preparation.

In bidding the reader good-by, the editors and publishers further desire to express the hope that their work may meet with the popular approval of the citizens of the county, and that this volume may, in the years to come, be referred to as a reliable account of the development of Marion County.

Transcribed by Mary E. Boyer, February 2007, reformatted by Al Hibbard 10 Oct 2013