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Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa



Notwithstanding the county plat books do not show this, one of Shelby County's first villages, nevertheless it was staked out by Mansel Wicks and a man named Dodge. It took its singular name from a town of the same name in South American, where Wicks, one of the proprietors of this embryo village, was cast away by a shipwreck, about 1852. The location of this place was near L. D. Sunderland's home, on section 4, township 79, range 38, in what is now Harlan Township. A stock of goods was put in there by Jacob Majors. This place was also started with the view of getting the county seat located there, it being near the center of the county; and this, like several other centering locations, fell into a dreamless sleep and soon expired!



This is the oldest village of the county. It was regularly platted October 30, 1854, and was the point designated by the committee, who located the county seat in 1853-'54, as the place for the seat of justice. Its location was section 27, township 81, range 40, west, and in what is now Grove Township. Quite a prosperous village sprang into existence there, but upon the removal of the county seat to Harlan, the vitality of Shelbyville was soon sapped and the numerous residences and business houses erected there were torn down or removed to Harlan and other points. For many years there has been no trace of a village there. In reality it had an existence from 1854 to 1860, but yet it is replete with pioneer incidents now almost lost in the minds of the few remaining old settlers, and scarcely ever spoken of by the younger generation.



This was a village platted a mile and a half east of Harlan, in September, 1857, by County Surveyor Samuel Dewell, on land owned by Milton Heath and wife. It was situated on the east half of the southeast quarter of section 8, and the west half of the southwest quarter of section 9, township 79, range 38, west. Its name originated from a character named Som-i-daw, taken from a novel which one of the first settlers of Simoda was reading at the time the village was being platted. The place was started for the purpose of locating the county seat, and also was to be an important station on the then proposed Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway, which finally took a more southern route through Avoca and Shelby. It was a well-designed plat; the survey shows that the streets were all eighty feet wide, except "Railroad street," which as 100 feet. The depot grounds were surveyed 200 by 720 feet. A paper -- the first newspaper in Shelby County -- was established at Simoda in the spring of 1859, a history of which appears in the chapter devoted to the newspaper press elsewhere in this book. The place was a rival village of Harlan, and was indeed a beautiful site for a town, situated as it was at the forks of the two branches of the Nishnabotna River, on high, rolling ground. At onetime, during 1859-'60, there were about twenty residences and business houses, including the New Idea printing office and N. W. Merrill's general store. A copy of the first newspaper was recently shown the writer. It contained the following business cards: William Reed, blacksmith, Manteno, Ia.; A. C. Ford, attorney and counselor at law; Dewell & Holbrook, county surveyors.

Quite a spirited warfare was carried on between the people of Harland and Simoda, known as the "Simoda war," contesting for the location of the county seat, but when by a vote of the people it was finally located at Harlan, Simoda lost its grip and soon went to decay, now only having a name in the musty plats of the county recorder's books and in the memory of the pioneers of Shelby County. The buildings were sold and removed to Harland and to adjoining farms. Thus rose and fell the third village started in the county.



This is among the villages platted in 1859, the same having been filed for record April 19 of that year. It is situated on section 18, township 81, range 40, west, and in what is now known as Grove Township, and is two or three miles from the defunct village of Shelbyville. At one time it was quite a hamlet, but after the county seat was removed from Shelbyville to Harlan, and other towns took rank as trading points, Manteno declined. At present there is but little aside from a few shops, a general store and the postoffice, all of which are a great accommodation to the surrounding farming community, who find it too far to go to the railroad towns for the staple goods they may require.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass, August, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 259-260.

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