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Story County History from the 1865 Iowa State Gazetteer

The following short history of Story County, Iowa is taken from the 1865 Iowa State Gazetteer. It was submitted by Col. John Scott and provides an interesting overview from that time, with emphasis on the formation of what is today Iowa State University. The Gazetteer is available on FamilyHistory.org film 007952283.

Story County

Occupies the geographical centre of the State, and is bounded on the north by Hamilton and Hardin Counties, on the east by Marshall, on the south by Jasper and Polk, and on the west by Boone. The county was settled by quite a number of families in the spring and summer of 1851. among which were those of the Ballards, at Ballard's Grove, John H. Keigley and Squire M. Cary, on Skunk River. and George N. Kirkman, on Indian Creek. The honor of the first location belongs to William Parker, who settled on the farm where he still resides, and which is near the Jasper line, on the 12th day of April, 1848. Mr. Parker was assessed, and enumerated in the census of 1850, as a citizen of Marshall County

The county was organized in the spring of 1833, but the records do not show the exact date. E. C. Evans was first County Judge, John Zenor first Treasurer and Recorder, Franklin Thompson first Clerk of the District Court, Eli Deal first Sheriff, Otho French first Surveyor, Shadrack Worrell first Coroner, and John H. Keigley first School Fund Connuissioner. The election was held April 4th, 1853, and the votes were canvassed on the 9th at Boonsboro. The date of qualification of the officers is not given

The first entry on the Minute Book is as follows: "Story County–County Court, Nov. 15th, 1853. Ordered, That Stephen P. O'Brien, receive the suns of thirty-six dollars for services rendered as Assessor of Story County. E. C. EVANS, Judge."

The first transfer of real estate recorded is a deed from Jenkin W. Morris, to Story County, for the lands on which the Commissioners had previously located the county seat, where is now the town of Nevada.

The first marriage license issued was that of Noah Hand and Sarah Sellers, May 24th, 1854.

The site or the present town of Nevada was selected as a county seat in 1853, and the first session of the District Court was held on the 14th day of August, 1854, his honor, the very eccentric C. J. McFarland, presiding. The court was held in a log house then unfinished, which stood just east of the site of the Alderman Block. The jury retired to the stable of John McClain to make up their verdicts, and it is among the traditions that one of the jurors was kicked by a horse in the jury-room!

The Grand Jury was conducted to a retired spot upon the prairie, where they are said to have gravely dismissed the contents of a jug of corn whisky, occasionally assisted in disposing of the subject by His Honor, whose ability in that direction was never questioned.

This primitive style was in vogue to some extent until the summer of 1850, when a court house was erected, containing rooms for holding court, and for the county officers. It was burned down on the night of January 1st, 1864, with the loss of over ten thousand dollars in "greenbacks," and to the imminent danger of the county records, which barely escaped destruction. The building now used for like purposes was erected on the some site, in the fall of 1884.

The county is twenty.four miles square, and is divided into eleven civil townships, viz: Collins, Franklin, Howard, Indian Creek, Lafayette, Milford, Nevada, New Albany, Palestine, Union, and Washington.

The principal villages are Nevada, the county seat, Iowa Centre, Cambridge, New Philadelphia, Story City, Ames, and Colo. The first and last two are on the line of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.

The surface of the county is a gently undulating prairie, interspersed with groves, and diversified with streams, mounds, lowlands and pond. The soil is a rich, warm, sandy loam, very productive, and well adapted to grains, grasses, roots and fruits. The quality of the wild grass is excellent both for pasterage and for bay, and at the same time is abundant in nearly every portion of the county. The fattening qualities of this grass are extraordinary and well adapted to the production of beef and wool. The small fruits, including grapes, are easily raised, and of good quality. Perhaps no part of the country is better calculated to produce large crops of corn, garden vegetables, beets, turnips, melons, and other vines, with little labor.

Many thousand sheep have been introduced within the past two years. They do well, and pay a handsome profit. Cattle and hogs are raised in large numbers.

The timber is mostly in the southern and western parts of the county, yet there is timber in or near every portion except the central northern. Skunk River, which runs from north to south through the west half of the county, is well timbered, also the West Fork, or Squaw Creek. In the central and eastern part is the timber of East Indian and West Indian Creeks. Ballard's Grove, Walnut Grove, Worrell's Grove, Luther Grove, Centre Grove, Deer Grove, Johnson's Grove and Bear Grove, supply the prairie farmers near them with timber of good quality, consisting of oak, walnut, ash, maple, linn, hickory, elm, cottonwood, &c. Some of the farmers are beginning to plant timber on the prairie with good prospects; and there ore many miles of the white (or gray) willow, (salix alba,,) for hedges.

There are several quarries of good building stone already open; a good quality of limestone is found in several places, and clay suitable for brick is easily obtained. No coal mines have been discovered, but there is little doubt but the county is within the coal region.

The general course of the streams is south and southeast. In addtion to those already named may be mentioned Bear Creek, Long Dick Creek, Keigley's Creek, Walnut Creek, Deer Creek, Wolf Creek, Clear Creek and Minerva Creek, all of which are tributariea of Skunk River and its branches, except the last named, which empties into the Iowa River.

There are some small water-mills upon these streams, but the water-power is insignificant. There are three steam grist mills and quite a number of steam saw-mills, but a large proportion of the lumber now used in building and fencing is brought in by Railroad.

Story county contains the STATE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE and Model Farm. This is situated on the waters of Squaw Creek, ten miles west of Nevada, on thence of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, one mile west of Ames station. The College buildings are in process of erection, and when completed, will be fine structures, capable of accommodating several hundred students. The farm contains six hundred and forty-eight acres of excellent land, and will soon be stocked with the choicest specimens of domestic animals to be found in the country. It is expected that the college will be.formally opened in the fall of 1866. Being endowed by the National Government with a munificent land grant, and under the fostering care of the State, the college and farm will probably be of great advantage to the region in which it is located, as well as to the peculiar interest it is intended to advance.

History–In 1858 the Legislature passed an act appropriating $10,000 for the purchase of a farm on which to locate an Agricultural College. A farm was purchased in 1859 in Story County, situated about midway between Nevada and Boonsboro, and about thirty miles directly north of Des Moines. The farm contains 648 acres, and is admirably adapted to the purposes of the institution, embracing all the leading varieties of soil in the State. No additional appropriation has been made by the State since the organic law was passed, but the County of Story donated $10,000 in the bonds of the county, bearing 7 per cent. interest, and individuals of Story and Boone Counties donated, in lands and notes, about $7,000 additional. The organic law also diverted the five sections of land granted by Congress to the State for Capital purposes lying in Jasper County, provided Congress would consent. A recent act of Congress gave the control of the land to the State, which is now under the charge of the College Institution. These lands will probably produce about $14,000.

The institution is managed by a Board of Trustees, which are appointed by the Legislature, one being taken from each judicial district in the State, and embracing the Governor and President of .the State Agricultural Society, being in all thirteen members. This Board serves without pay for their services, but are allowed mileage, same as members of the Legislature. Its officers are a President, pro tem., a Secretary and Treasurer, and an Executive Committee of three to act during the interim of the meetings of the Board.

In July, 1862, Congress appropriated to the several loyal States in the Union, for Agricultural Colleges, 30,000 acres of land, for each senator and representative in Congress. The amount under this grant, to the State of Iowa, was 240,000 acres. Any State accepting this grant is required by the terms of the grant to erect the necessary college buildings, without using any of the proceeds of the lands for that purpose, within five years from the time of the acceptance of the grant. The State of Iowa, at the special session in September, 1862, accepted this grant, with this and other conditions imposed therein. The lands have been selected by an agent every way competent, appointed by the Governor, and approved by the Beard of Trustees of the College, as required by the accepting law of the State. They embrace some of the best unentered lands in the State, and when prepared for sale will command the attention of immigrants. As the interest on the proceeds of the sales of these lands is exclusively donated to meet the annual expenditures of the Institution, with a small exception for the purchase of lands on which to locate the buildings, there will be a fund soon created to sustain the institution.

This munificent grant having relieved the Board from any anxiety in regard to the future endowment of the Institution, they felt that a portion of the reserved assets might safely be used to place the farm in a condition to experiment upon crops, the purchase of several of the leading races of improved animals of all kinds, and testing their value by crossing on native breeds, best mode of feeding, shelter, &c., and in beautifying the farm with useful trees and shrubbery, and preparing fully for the work contemplated in the establishment of such an Institution.

Such is a brief history of the Institution under the management of the Board of Trustees which is almost exclusively confined to the farm and the operations thereon. The next point is the College proper, and the course of studies to be pursued therein, which are specified in the organie law are as follows, with some other provisions in regard to the reception of students, etc.:

Sec. 15. 'The course of instruction in said College shall include the following branches, to wit: Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Botany, Horticulture, Fruit Growing, Forestry, Animal and Vegetable Anatomy, Geology, Mineralogy, Meteorology, Entomology, Zoology, the Veterinary Art, plain Mensuration, Leveling, Surveying, Bookkeeping, and such mechanical arts as are directly connected with Agriculture. Also, such other studies as the Trustees may from time to time prescribe, not inconsistent with the purposes of this act

Sec. 16. The Board of Trustees shall establish such Professorships as they may deem best to carry into effect the provisions of this act.

Sec. 17.Sac. 17. Tuition in the College herein established shall be forever free to pupils from this State over fourteen years of age, and who have been residents of the State six months previous to their admission. Applicants for admission must be of good moral character, able to read and write the English language with ease and correctness, nod also to pass a satisfactory examination in the fundamental rules of arithmetic.

Sec. 18.SM. 18. The Trustees, open consultation with the professors and teachers, shall, from time to time, establish rules regulating the number of hours, to be not less than two in winter and three in summer, which shall be devoted to manual labor, and the compensation therefor; and no student shall be exempt from such labor except in case of sickness or other infirmity.

The Inquiry will naturally be made in regard to the cost of educating and sustaining a scholar in the college for one year. In the Farmer's College of Penneylvania, the price for board, lodging, washing, fuel and lights, is fixed at $100 per annum. The cost in our institution would not exceed this sum, from which would be deducted the amount credited for labor on the farm. The tuition is made free by law.

Object of the Institution.–The Iowa State Agricultural College has for its object, to associate a high state of intelligence with the practice of Agriculture and the industrial or mechanical arts, and to seek to make use of this intelligence in developing the agricultural and industrial resource of the country, and protecting its interest, It proposes to do this by several means:

lst. As a purely educational institution, its course of instruction is to Include the entire range of the Natural Sciences; but will embrace more especially those that have a practical bearing upon the every day duties of life, in order to make the student familiar with the things immediately around him, and with the powers of nature he employs, and with the material through the instrumentality of which, under the blessings of Providence, he lives and moves and has his being; and since Agriculture, more than any other of the industrial arts, is important to man, and since, for the complete education of its principles more scientific knowledge is required than for all other industrial arts combined. it follows that this should receive by far the highest degree of attention. The course or instruction is to be thorough, so that it will not only afford the student the facts of science, but will discipline his mind to habits of thought, and enable him fully to comprehend the abstract principles involved in the practical operation. of life. In doling this, it in not deemed possible to educate every agriculturist, artisan, mechanic, and business man in the State, but to send out a few students educated in the college course, that they, by the influence of precept and example, may infuse new life and intelligence into the several communities they may enter. A single individual, who is thoroughly educated in the principles and practice of an art, followed by a community, will often exert a more salutary influence upon the practice of this art, by the community, than would result from sending the whole community to a sehool of lower order than that which he attended. A single practical school of the highest order in Paris (the Ecole Polytechnique,) during the last generation, made France a nation celebrated alike for profound philosophers, great statesmen, able generale and military men, and civil engineers, If one high school of this practical character is established, subordinate schools, affording the elementary education of the latter, will follow in due time.

2d. As a practical education the Trustees of the Iowa State Agricultural College have adopted the fundamental principle, that whatever is necessary for man to have done, it is honorable for man to do, and that the grades of honor attached to all labor, are dependent upon the talent and fidelity exhibited in performing it. It is further considered essential as a part of a student's education, that he be taught the practical application, in the field and laboratory, of the principles he studies in the class room ; and manual labor is also necessary for the preservation of health, and the maintenance of the habits of industry. Au incidental, but not unimportant result of the operation of these principles is a reduction of the cost of tuition by the value of the labor, so that the college can take students at very low rates of admission.

All students, without regard to pecuniary circumstances, are therefore obliged to perform manual labor as an essential part of the college education and discipline and training. In these respects consists a most essential difference between the idea associated with manual labor and that of all other attempts made heretofore to combine manual labor with study. Instead of the idea of poverty and want being associated with those of labor, that of laziness and worthlessness is associated with those who refuse to work efficiently ; and the experience of established institutions has already most assuredly shown, that no young man, of whom there is any hope for future usefulness in life, is insensible to the disgrace which thus attaches to the lazy, who will work only as they are watched, and cheat their fellow students by refusing to do their share of the labor assigned them; and nothing is more conclusively settled than that those students who are the most studious and industrious in class, work the most efficiently and are the most trustworthy in the performance of their daily work.

3d. As an Experimental Institution, our college has an unbounded field for labor. The principles of Agricultural Science, which will ultimately constitute the subject of instruction in its class-rooms, will be a prominent and important branch of it. The development of no other department will yield richer and more lasting results, or confer more substantial benefit upon agricultural practice than this. Much time, however, is required to make thorough and reliable experiments–they will not pay at once; as well might the farmer expect to reap his crop the day he sows his grain. They will, however, ultimately pay a thousand fold, as have the practical application of the sciences of electricity, heat and optics, in the present day, paid for the half century of apparently unpractical, purely scientific investigations that led to the results now obtained through them.

The only railway now completed within the county limits, is the Chicago & Northwestern. This road is now in operation to the Des Moines River, some fifteen miles west of this county, where it strikes the coal mines. It gives direct communication with Chicago, without change of cars, by an almost air-line on the forty-second parallel of latitude, a distance of 318 miles. It also furnishes lumber from the Mississippi River, one hundred and eighty miles distant.

Located in the midst of one of the best stock-raising countries in the world, with agricultural resources unsurpassed, and fast filling up with an industrious and moral population, by which it will be rapidly developed, an almost unequalled degree of prosperity may safely be predicted for the county and its people.

NEVADA, the county seat of Story County, is an unincorporated town with a present population of nearly one thousand persons. It is located on the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, three hundred and eighteen miles from Chicago. It is pleasantly situated upon a gently rolling prairie near the head of the grove which borders West Indian Creek. It was first settled by Theodore E. Alderman, who took up his abode within the town limits on the 14th day of October, 1853. He was alone in his glory until the following August, when he was reinforced by John H. McClain. In October, 1854, George Childs, T. J. Adamson, Jonathan Harris, A. P. Fitch, and Isaac Romane, became citizens. During the same autumn, and the succeeding .year, an accession of more than two hundred persons was received, and the settlement became a village in fact as well as in name. During 1855 and '56 the population increased to about four hundred, and many neat and substantial dwellings were erected. The revulsion of 1857 put a stop to improvement, and the place advanced but little for several years. The building of the railroad, which was opened in the summer of 1864, gave the town a new impetus, and it is now improving rapidly.

The first child born in the village, was a daughter to Mr. Alderman, and was named Mary Nevada. The date of birth was January 13th, 1854. She died during the following December, that being the first death in the county. The oldest native of the town, now living, is Miss Ida C., daughter of Theodore E. and Hannah Alderman, born August 8th, 1857.

There are Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Cumberland Presbyterian, and Baptist church societies, comprised in the population of the town and vicinity. The village school is graded, and at present affords facilities for acquiring the common brandies. Additional school-rooms will soon be built, and the facilities increased and extended.

There is a Lodge of A. F. & A. M., which meets in Nevada Hall on the Saturday evening of or next preceding each full moon ; also a Temperance organization, with stated weekly meetings. The Ægis is published every Wednesday by John M. Brainard and Adam Reitz.

The usual number of dry goods stores, groceries, drug stores, hardware stores, physicians, lawyers, mechanics and laborers, is to be found. The community is industrious and moral, and town and country around are both advancing as rapidly as is consistent with the best interests of either.

IOWA CENTRE is seven miles southeast of Nevada, in Indian Creek Township. It has four churches, Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian; also one flouring mill, one saw mill, and two general stores. Population 250.

CAMBRIDGE is on the west bank of the Skunk River, on the road from Nevada to Des Moines, nine miles southwest of Nevada, and twenty-two miles from Des Moines. It contains one flouring mill, and one general store. Population 100.

COLLEGE FARM is in the western part of the county, ten miles from Nevada, and one and a half miles from Ames Station on the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad. There is one church, Congregationalist, and one general store. Population of township 800.

PALESTINE is a post office in the southwestern corner of Story County.

The remaining post offices and villages in the county are, Camden, Colo, Johnston Grove, New Philadelphia, Sheffield and Story City.

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