The financial history of the county, unfortunately, bears no direct rating of improvement as compared with its wonderful progress in other directions.  Through a mistaken policy in its earlier days-some portions of which have been more than once repeated-the county has had a long and hard struggle to free itself from debt, a result not yet attained.

In the earliest report on the finances, the business covering so little ground, and the causes of the heavy drafts of later days not existing, but little effort was required to keep the books in a condition easily understood.  In those days the office of treasurer resembled, in part, the New England office of itinerant collector.  He not only had a business headquarters, but was obliged to call upon delinquent tax-payers in order to secure their assessment.  The duties of the treasurer were therefore doubly onerous and his remuneration by no means adequate to the toil incurred.  Few men sought office in those days; perhaps because the emoluments thereof were not sufficient to warrant any stenuous canvass.  It was reserved for a later day and another generation to seek office for its spoils.  Political contests, while excited so far as regards state or national issues, had nothing in common with them when matters of a local nature came up for suffrage.  Personal vituperation and insidious attacks upon character were not then so prevalent as now.  Persons were sought to fill offices, and should their duties appear onerous they were ready at once to resign.  Salaries were small, and the temptation to use funds belonging to the public was stronger oftentimes than the determination to do right.  Without instituting any invidious comparisons between the present county officials and those of an earlier day, it may be proper to note that the county treasury contributed more often to the funds of private individuals, than the reverse.

It became necessary, in the course of a few years, to have the financial standing of the county investigated, and the records relating thereto were subjected to a most careful and painstaking examination.  In 1858 a commission, consisting of Nathan Dean and H.J. Graham, was appointed by the county court, "to examine the accounts and finances of the county."  They met at the court house in Glenwood, July 7th, 1858, and made a thorough examination of such accounts and records as were available.  Their report dates back to 1852.  The county treasurer was C.W. Tolles.  He is charged with the tax list of 1852, amounting in the aggregate to $1,127.69, for which he gave his receipt.  How much of that tax there was paid is not and never can be known.  When he went out of office his deficiency  amounted to $106.00.  His successor was Azoe Richardson, who entered upon the duties of his office in August, 1853.  He is charged with $1,517.51, against which there is a credit of $970.17, leaving a deficit of $547.34.  The commission reported that they were "unable to hunt up papers and receipts to make the account reconcile."  This exhibit follows a like line from 1852 until 1858, the time of making the examination.  In none of the settlements do debts and credits agree.  The committee reported August 14, 1858, and at the conclusion of the tables of the financial exhibit, they remark:

"We have failed in many instances even to satisfy ourselves, and have come to the conclusions here presented after a protracted investigation, showing a result, we believe, as correct as possible under the circumstances.  Several causes have operated as impediments in our progress, and the protraction of our labors, and have contributed to the want of that complete success which we could have wished to have rewarded our labors.  One thing is the great want of books which the county has suffered for, until a recent period, rendering it a very difficult task for the county officers to manage their affairs as they should do, and keep a clear statement of everything recorded correctly, trusting less to memory, which is very fallible and seldom to be trusted, rather than to the immediate entering of every transaction upon an enduring record.  This want of books has been greatly relieved by the present incumbent, Judge E.C. Bosbyshell.

"To this lack of books must be added a want of regularity and system in the entries themselves, which must invariably lead their successors, if not themselves into great confusion.  And we percieve that the tax lists have been passed over to the treasurer for the last three years in a very imperfect state.  We are glad to report, however, that a very great improvement has been made, and we may expect to see a much clearer exhibit in the affair of the county hereafter.

"In regard to the papers appertaining to the business of the county, many are known to be lost, and more mislaid, some of which were of great importance.  The great desideratum is to have everything entered at the proper time, in the right place, and in a correct manner; to have a place for everything, and everything in its place.  This will obviate the necessity of calling together another committee, or if called together will render their labors comparatively light.  It is hoped that the settlement now made, establishing as it does, a tangible basis for future management, and the sufficiency of books which they now have, will enable the county officers to inaugurate a new system, and transact the county business in a correct manner and satisfactory to all."

Concerning this statement it is but due to state that deficiencies may have occurred through mere carelessness, or want of proper entry rather than that they occurred through intent to defraud the county or pilfer its treasury.  No settlements often appearing the commissioners "assumed" that moneys had properly been paid and cared for, with which assumption the charitably disposed will concur.

To better exhibit the material prosperity of the county, the census tables for 1856, are herewith given.  By instituting a comparison between them and the abstract of assessment for 1880, the material increase in wealth may be readily observed:


Table Showing the Agricultural Statistics of Mills County, for 1856.


A-1 Township
A-2 Acres of Improved Land
A-3 Acres of Unimproved Land
A-4 Acres of Meadow
A-5 Tons of Hay
A-6 Acres of Spring Wheat
A-7 Bushels Harvested
A-8 Acres of Winter Wheat
A-9 Bushels Harvested
A-10 Acres of Oats
A-11 Bushels Harvested
A-12 Acres of Corn
A-13 Bushels Harvested
A-14 Acres of Potatoes
A-15 Bushels Harvested


A-1 A-2 A-3 A-4 A-5 A-6 A-7 A-8 A-9 A-10 A-11 A-12 A-13 A-14 A-15
West Liberty 2,451 24,926 10 410 270 3,271 88 1,131 107 3,670 1,142 55,530 21 3461
Silver Creek 2,808 723 1 1 257 1,338 246 1,373 128 2,122 1,118 37,300 21 2765
Rawles 2295 9372 2   223 2348 82 902 93 1,710 1,134 43,010 13 2478
Council Bluffs 762 4,485 16 173 145 1,516     68 2,140 385 18,580 15 1865
St. Mary 30 2,502 60                      
Plattville 682 2,007 4   63 270 8 46     585 22,162 13 1460
Montgomery 871 3,011     167 1,552 1 5 21 380 214 7,430 3 418
White Cloud 616 5,689 216   106 1,282 6 84 37 675 229 8,974 7 1032
Nishnabotna 746 3,034     158 1,573 8 80 20 322 312 8,545 2 543
Total 11,261 55,749 309 584 1,329 13,150 439 3,621 473 11,019 5,119 201,531 95 14,022


A-1 Number of Hogs Sold
A-2 Value of Hogs Sold
A-3 Number of Cattle Sold
A-4 Value of Cattle Sold
A-5 Pounds of Butter Made
A-6 Pounds of Cheese
A-7 Pounds of Wool
A-8 Value of Domestic Manufactures
A-9 Value of General Manufactures


Showing The Number And Value Of Hogs And Cattle Sold, The Value Of Domestic And General Manufactures Of Mills County, for 1856

A-1 A-2 A-3 A-4 A-5 A-6 A-7 A-8 A-9 A-10
West Liberty 437 2,256 307 7,182 12,385 400 499 95 55,200
Silver Creek 387 3,065 184 5,116 8,615 1,180 999 467 ---
Rawles 353 2,122 296 5,440 11,955 1,555 1,186 1,154 ---
Council Bluffs 120 869 176 2,677 1,689 10 25 --- ---
St. Mary --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
Plattville 68 589 76 1,738 5,715 100 376 --- ---
Montgomery 127 800 54 1,372 1,835 50 127 85 300
White Cloud 148 659 71 1,194 2,116 12 291 20 ---
Nishnabotna 74 633 30 818 1,380 600 262 320 ---
Total 1,714 10,993 1,194 25,538 45,690 3,907 4,093 2,173 55,500


Abstract Of The Assessment Of Mills County For The Year 1880, As Required By Section 833 Of The Code of 1873, And Chapter 5, Title 10, Of Said Code

Lands Exclusive of Town Property, 270,087 Acres Value of Reality In Towns Valuation
Towns, Cities and Villages    
Glenwood City $145,270  
Malvern City $74,925  
Emerson City 26,470  
Hillsdale City $40,798  
Pacific City, Pacific Junction and Sharpsburg $15,072  
White Cloud $577  
Aggregate Value of Realty in Towns   $311,855
Aggregate Value of Railroad Property as Assessed by Executive Council Under Chapter 5, Title X of the Code of 1873   $596,365
Aggregate Value of Personal Property (including horses, cattle, etc.)   $1,128,234
Total Exemptions for Trees Planted not Deducted From the Above $76,646  
Total Valuation of the County   $4,256,619


Livestock Number Aggregate Valuation
Cattle Assessed In The County $21,073 $265,400
Horses Assessed In The County $7,410 $261,105
Mules Assessed In The County $865 $38,322
Sheep Assessed In The County $1,336 $1,550
Swine Assessed In The County $23,524 $45,589
Total Valuation of Livestock --- $611,966

I certify the foregoing to be a full and complete abstract of assessments of said county, as required by law, and as corrected by the county board of equalization.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal of office, this 12th day of June, 1880.


County Auditor

Thus it is evident that as the world moves the tax-gatherer moves with it.  He is not always the symbol of financial oppression or of a ruinous policy.  While the immense increase in taxation is noticed, it should be remembered that there has been a very great increase in the wealth of this county, and in the extent of its public business.  Railroads have come and to them the people have contributed liberally, if not always willingly.  While they have been a source of increased taxation, they have raised real estate from a mere nominal value to a high standard.  Not one cent has been legitimately expended in this manner but that it has increased largely the value of the land owned by those who donated the necessary funds.  But the indebtedness of the county is considerable.  There is one factor which, however, should be allowed its due weight, and that is the nature of the surface s constantly necessitating expenditure on roads and bridges.  The soil is light and very slight rains frequently cause great ravines to be washed out across the roads.  The bridge and road taxes will always from these purely natural and unavoidable causes, be a source of constant large expenditure to the county; while retrenchment may here be needed their necessity will never be superseded.  Other sources of expenditure have been the county levee and the Watkins ditch, the usefulness and value of which is set forth in another place.