History of Wayne County
County, Iowa, was named for General Anthony
Wayne of the Revolutionary War. Originally Wayne
was a part of the County of Des Moines, but its
boundaries were defined in 1846. The survey of
the north 3 tiers of townships occurred in 1847.
Wayne County was attached to Appanoose County
for 5 years for election and judicial purposes.
In 1851, three commissioners from nearby
counties were chosen to locate a county seat.
They selected the present site of Corydon, and
sent the name of Springfield to the Secretary of
State. Since there was a Springfield already in
Iowa, the next suggestion was the name of
Anthony. But the Judge Seth Anderson wanted the
name of Corydon given to the town, since
Corydon, Indiana, was his old home town. For the
final decision, a game of poker was played.
Judge Anderson, the winner, gave the name of
Corydon to the county seat of Wayne County. In
1856, a court house was built at a cost of
$600.00. A jail was built the same year.
Bringing the Past Back Alive Today
Early history of Peoria, Wayne County, Iowa taken from a newspaper article dated January 27, 1955 as told by Grant Kelly. "In the following lines I will endeavor to describe some of the incidents, places and people and to bring back memories of some of the older folks of the times when there were no such things as automobiles, the school bus and airplanes. There was no such thing as going to the store and buying a loaf of bread or ready ground coffee for the percolator or dripolator. In those days cornbread, biscuits, sorgum, butter and milk were the principle foods. The younger generation with all it's conveniences, streets, highways, paved or rocked roads had no snow drifts to climb over to go to school, no mud knee-deep to wade through and you have your modern school houses and hot lunches. I take you now to the history of one of the oldest towns in Wayne County, Peoria, Iowa, Section 15, Township 69, Range 22. In the minds of most folks now living in Wayne County, Bentonville, four miles northwest of Corydon would be classified as a ghost town, and as it should be compared with what it was from 1853 to 1882. Peoria, Iowa was surveyed and laid out as a town in 1853. M. H. Richman, surveyor, David Niday, Corneilus Niday, and George W. Peck were chairman. It was laid out in blocks and lots, forty-eight blocks. Four to eight lots to a block. The main part of town was south of the present east-west highway and east of the north and south highway. James Peck, Joseph Zimmerman and wife, John Niday and wife gave the land for the site of the new town. A public square in the center of town where all the Civic Meetings were held. Almost the first undertaking was to build a school house. A log school house was built at the north edge of the town and in 1870 the log school house was torn down and a new frame building was erected. Some of the first teachers in the new school house were George Tracy, Joe Freeland, Anna McGregor. Some of the first pupils were G.T. Robinson, Willett Robinson, Maretta Peck, Tip (Harvey) Peck and Ike Peck, Nat and Ned Freeland, C.G. Holder and John L. Kelly. When Peoria was first platted there was no school house in the center of Benton Township. In 1881 a proposition was discussed and settled to move the school house to the center of Benton Township and in the fall of 1881 the school house was moved to where Benton Center School now stands. About the year 1864, a group of citizens of Benton Township held a meeting in the town park and decided to build a church house. George W. Peck donated the land just north of town. Among the first preachers was Uncle "Dad Winters" as he was familiarly called. The members of the church were Baptist although there were a lot of Methodist that took a leading part in the spiritual life of the church and from 1853 to 1882, Peoria, Iowa was a new and thriving town of young, industrious, hard working men and women who came from the Eastern states to settle and make for themselves a new home. They had heard of the new state "IOWA" with its' rolling prairies, abundance of wild deer, turkeys, and prairie chickens which later proved to be a menace to their crops. In the early years of Peoria, Iowa, John Robinson ran a brick yard west of where the Wayne County home now stands. The bricks were used for walling wells, caves and chimneys. Hiram Kieth ran a saw mill about 1/4 mile north of town. The lumber was used mostly in the frame work of dwellings, barns and cribs. There was a baseball diamond just at the east edge of town. I have heard my oldest brother, John Kelly tell of the Peoria ball team playing the Corydon team in the fair grounds at the northeast corner of Corydon the day the bank was robbed. On Saturday June 3rd, 1871, at a meeting held at the Corydon Methodist Church for the purpose of interesting county folks in securing a railroad, 7 men rode into town, robbed the Ocobock Bank of an estimated $6,000 and left passing the church yard to call "WE'VE ROBBED THE BANK, CATCH US IF YOU CAN!" The first pursuit of 50-75 men mostly unarmed, was followed by a more organized group under Capt. Littell's leadership, but resulted only in the loss of a horse belonging to one of the posse in a skirmish near Cameron, MO. The James Gang and the Younger Brothers had robbed the Ocobock Bank! In 1879 and 1880 the Keokuk and Western Railroad was built through Wayne County and the name of Peoria was changed to Bentonville. From 1880 to 1890 such men as J.N. McClanahan, Peter Robinson, Eliza Crawford, L.K. Shell and George Hill with the help of the Railroad tried in vain to keep the town alive. Now in 1955, there is nothing left of Peoria except it's descendants to tell the story of a once flourishing town near the center of Benton Township, Wayne County, Iowa.