Carroll County IAGenWeb


A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement



Transcribed and donated by Marilyn Setzler.



The political history of Carroll county is a brief and uneventful story. In the early days, when settlement was restricted to Carroll and the eastern part of the county, and when the war spirit was dominant, the county was republican, though it is to be doubted if there was much politics, in the party sense, as compliable democrats seem to have shared with controlling republican politicians in the rich crumbs which fell from the courthouse table.

Along in the late seventies the late Hon. O. H. Manning, then an enterprising young lawyer, came to Carroll from Jefferson, where he had been admitted to the bar, and set up an office and began at once to interest himself in local politics. Manning at this period of his life was a good deal of a crusader and having detected many irregularities in the conduct of public business which should not exist he set about to contrive plans for a general house cleaning.

To forward this object he bought the Carroll Herald, a newspaper, the first edition of which had been printed at Carrollton before the removal of the county seat. J. F. H. Sugg had been its editor previous to the advent of Manning, and having been himself connected with many of the earlier county affairs the Herald up to this time had been silent on the topics which its new editor was preparing to make vocal.

At the transfer Manning introduced into the editorship of his paper E. R. Hastings, who later became owner of the Herald, one of the most able newspaper men that western Iowa has ever developed, and the batteries of reform were ready for operation. Certain portions of this history have been taken from the files of the Herald during the time of Mr. Hastings' connection with it, which continued to the time of his death in 1886. The writer was associated with him during his later years and may here express his appreciation of his worth and worthiness. His accomplishments as a newspaper man were great and varied and but for his untimely death at the age of 38 he would have made a distinguished mark in the newspaper world. He was a man of great force and of the highest type of integrity and honor. Well educated and widely read, he had also the happy genius for expression and made facile use of his knowledge in the most vigorous and clean cut English.

Perhaps Manning and Hastings were not the only pioneers in the work of restoring sound government in Carroll county. Indeed, it is questionable if they were first found in the field. With the growth of the new town of Carroll many promising young men were added to the population who had come west to grow up with the country. Among these was Henry E. Russell. W. L. Culbertson, who had spent four years in the war, was still a young man with leaning toward public life. Both of these gentlemen were prominent at this period. At Glidden there was also a number of fearless and forcible citizens acting under the leadership of L. G. Bangs, now of Carroll, then agent of the Northwestern railroad. Captain Winnett, of Newton township, and Curtis Durlam, of Jasper township, were also participants in the movement to reconstruct public business on a better basis. Those above mentioned and others about the year 1869 started a movement to reform the county government, but with little success at the outset.

The politicians were strongly entrenched and their influence ramified into every school district of the county. The voting population was small and the party in power by liberal favors and possibly other inducements more potent had many friends. When the county seat was changed from Carrollton to Carroll and the town and country began to show signs of growth and permanence the old politicians and their methods were too crude to last, though for at least a decade after the attack on them started they were able to sway such influence as to give them immunity in the eyes of the law.

Just what truth there may be in the tradition no one at present extant who could speak with authority will say, but many believe, among the old timers in the eastern part of the county, that the election by which the county seat was removed, was not a fair reflection of the preference of that day. Glidden was also a candidate and as a town had reached a stage of some importance. It was situated on the railroad, the remoteness from which made a removal from Carrollton desirable, while Carroll was unknown save as it was marked by a rough board station surrounded by a few crude buildings. In no direction from this site, save to the east, was there a settlement or an inhabitant in the county. Nearly all of the voters preferred Glidden to Carroll, whose only possible advantage was in the fact that it stood at the center of the county. At the time of the election Carroll did not cast over a half dozen votes. Human nature being as it is, it is hardly probable that a population wholly remote from this hamlet would vote away from itself as important an institution as a county seat, even for so just a reason as to provide for its location at a conveniently central point. The county authorities were, however, for Carroll, and the Northwestern railroad favored the same point and by the returns of the canvassing board Carroll came in at the head of the poll.

The immediate removal of the county records and offices followed the election. The transfer was made during the night, when Glidden was sleeping. Otherwise, and with general notice that the capital was about to take wings, there might have been opposition suited to the rough nature of the times. The people of Glidden have always claimed that unfair methods were employed in the measures which surrounded the transfer, but, as before stated, this rests on assertion, and the assumption that voters would be likely to do a certain thing under certain circumstances, rather than on known facts. At the present time the feeling is universal that a proper location was made for the convenience of the people of the whole county, and the people of Glidden, while still repeating the tradition which grew up around the removal, have long since ceased to be resentful. If indeed the authorities and not the voters made Carroll the seat of the county their act is generally commended, and, what is not so commendable, it may have helped in neutralizing sentiment toward other acts on their part not governed by the same wisdom or justifiable under any circumstances.

To turn from this digression, the period of reform which has been mentioned in the foregoing, occupied the decade of the seventies. Both wings of the controversies were in the republican party, and while the reformers appeared a part of the time under an independent flag in local affairs and were elected against a "regular" ticket, yet the redemption was made by republicans and by them were the fiscal affairs of the county placed on a going basis and in a way to so continue. There appears elsewhere in this volume a chronological arrangement of the official roster of the county from its organization to the present. By consulting that with reference to the dates which have been mentioned it will be found to tell the story on which we have been dwelling and it also sets apart those who during the troubled times of transition are entitled to the honors as expressed in the language of office. But hundreds of others not in office deserve mention also, and their names appear in different places in other parts of this book.

During the seventies the immigration and settlement were heavy and a very large part of this, especially that which came to occupy the farming lands, was German. Many of these were from the overflowing German settlements in the region of Dubuque, but the greater number were direct from Germany, brought in by the efforts of the immigration enterprises of the Northwestern railroad and state of Iowa, which latter at that time was active in many distant parts, through commissioned agents, in peopling the unsettled regions of the northwest. Many of these, as they acquired citizenship, became identified with the democratic party in a measure because that party more nearly reflected their views on a local question.

At the time Carroll county was set aside as an independent representative district the constitutional prohibition of the liquor traffic had been much an issue and indeed such an amendment to the constitution had been carried by a vote of the people and set aside by the supreme court on account of certain defects in the record of its passage through the legislature. This measure the republican party in the state was responsible for, and at this time, after the amendment had been cast aside by the supreme court, the party was still devising means to make the state prohibition by the more ordinary processes of legislative enactment. Being opposed to these measures the German element of Carroll county was very largely driven into the democratic party, and this weight was so heavy that in a few years, as immigration and naturalization increased, that party came into power, a position in which it still abides. Its majorities have varied from time to time, and it has occasionally lost a county official owing to some local condition, but its control has been consistent and so promises to remain as far as there are any facts to indicate.

Carroll county was set off to itself as a representative district by the 16th general assembly in 1882. It had previously been represented in the law making body of the state along with a group of adjoining counties, and in this association it had once been represented by a home man, Oraldo H. Manning, a republican, who was elected to the lower house in 1875 and served one term in the 16th session, of which he was chosen speaker. Mr. Manning so distinguished himself in this capacity that his party nominated and elected him lieutenant governor, in which office he served and presided over the senate from 1882 to 1886. Mr. Manning and Hon. B. I. Salinger, also a republican, and Hon. Warren Garst, who succeeded as lieutenant governor to the governor's chair when Governor Cummins was elected to the senate, are the only Carroll county men who have been honored with state office. Mr. Salinger served several terms as supreme court reporter, retiring in 1904. But at the time of becoming of itself a representative district the county was democratic by a considerable majority, and to Hon. Michael Miller, now a resident of Kansas, but then a prominent druggist of Carroll, belongs the distinction of first representing the county in the legislature. He served one term, the 20th general assembly, and was the forerunner of a distinguished line of democrats sent to Des Moines to make our laws. Only twice was this line broken, once, in 1886, when W. L. Culbertson, was elected, and again when Albert T. Bennett, in 1900, succeeded in overcoming the democratic majorities. Both were retired after one term. After the return of Mr. Miller from the legislature he bought the Carroll Sentinel from H. C. Ford, who had removed the paper from Glidden, and he was for several years its editor and a successful party leader. During his term as representative he was appointed to a place in the office of the Collector of Internal Revenues for Iowa and was not a candidate to succeed himself on that account.

Moralists of a certain class assert with a positiveness which they should save to apply to things of which they are sure, that the existence or absence of traffic in liquors is a barometer of communities by which is shown the state of the moral and civic health, the obedience or disobedience of law, and in general the community's good or bad behavior. It is almost puerile to repeat the argument, which runs to the effect that where liquor is sold and used the people are necessarily bad, and, on the other hand, where it is not sold, unless by stealth, and if used is used clandestinely, the people are necessarily of a different and superior fiber. This is in many cases accompanied by other statements going to show how, as in the case of the criminal courts and pauper statistics, the curse of liquor is immediate and vital.

In all probability no one will uphold the intemperate abuse of this traffic either on the part of the seller or the user. In these excessive manifestations it is wholly bad and corrupting all are prepared to admit. But the citizens of Carroll county may very justly challenge the claims of prohibitionists along the lines of the argument which has been mentioned above. It is not necessary to draw invidious distinctions, but of the greater crimes Carroll county has been almost free, while some of its neighbors have been the scene of the most sensational criminal events. Crimes of social depravity are also almost absent in the criminal records of the grand juries. The fact that in its whole history there has been but one or two instances, and they harmless in result, in which there has been a threat of interfering with the normal course of justice, is a significant and almost singular fact. It will be found by any one with the curiosity to investigate the question that the tax for the maintenance of the poor has been lower in Carroll county than in many of the counties surrounding, and that the cost to the public of criminal prosecutions is likewise low in comparison.

The reader must not understand that it is here sought to assert that these wholesome conditions exist because of the fact that Carroll county is in respect to the liquor traffic different from a great majority of the counties of western Iowa. It is believed, however, that this conclusion is entirely justifiable; namely, that the legal control of a traffic which is still in existence after a long term of years in so-called dry territory, is a good public policy and one which has its moral as well as its pecuniary advantages by actual and cold blooded comparison of the facts on which sound reason must establish itself.

The Iowa prohibitory amendment, which the supreme court a year later set aside, was passed by a vote of the people on the 28th of July, 1882. While the majority in the state was overwhelmingly in its favor, Carroll was one of the few counties which negatived the proposition by a heavy majority. After the defeat of the amendment, the legislature, taking the vote of the people to be a command, enacted a prohibitory law as severe as could possibly have been drawn upon constitutional warrant, and the experiment was tried for several years to prohibit this peculiar and persistent traffic without success.

During this period there was no time in which the law was effective for even a day, but this was no more the case in Carroll than in the other counties of the state. There were times when the saloons were closed, but when Fourth street in Carroll was "under the lid" enterprising "outlaws" were on hand with devices of various kinds by means of which the public demand was supplied. Houses were built on skids in order that they could be quickly and easily transported from place to place. Stables and private houses were also more or less used for the purpose. There was effort enough made to enforce the law on the part of the sheriffs and their forces, but to obey the law there was little inclination. The towns, losing a customary source of revenue, were forced to increase taxation and in spite of this were carried far toward bankruptcy. Carroll and Carroll county were not exceptions to the general demoralized condition brought about by the prohibition experiment, out of which, in the larger cities, great crimes arose and blackmail of the most flagrant sort became a common practice. In 1889 the great republican majority of Iowa was converted into a minority and Horace Boies, a democrat, was elected governor as a protest against the intolerable conditions to which the experiment had given rise. Nor was the republican party restored to power in the state until it had repudiated the policy and promised to give the people legislation on this question along less radical lines. The result of this was the present mulct law, which recognizes the right of the people of both the county, and the towns apart from the county, to exercise their option with reference to how the traffic shall be handled. From that day to this it has been carried on in Carroll county under the law, Glidden alone of the towns of the county for years refusing to grant license. Within the past year Coon Rapids has been added to the dry territory, along with Lanesboro, but the people by more than eighty-five per cent. [sic] are still anti-prohibition, and the other towns without exception are almost unanimously in accord with the views of the county in general.

Carroll county has persistently rejected the so-called reform, and the writer has dwelt upon the facts surrounding the movement, not to justify liquor selling and buying or the evils which oftentimes grow out therefrom, but to impress the conclusion that the policy of the county has been commendable on this subject and that the result has been to minimize the evils which arise from a traffic which, when not vigorously brought under regulation, is far from being suppressed, in which form it is at its worst as a menace to public and private morals and the general communal welfare.

masonic temple, carroll

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