IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

1905 - Clayton County Directory & Gazetteer - 1905

Clayton County Historical Sketch
and County Government Officials



Full source citation at bottom of the page.


Historical Sketch of Clayton County, Iowa

Named in honor of John Middleton Clayton, Senator from Delaware, who had rendered material assistance in the passage of the Wisconsin territorial bill, was constituted December 21, 1837. It was partly taken from Dubuque County, and its original boundaries included nearly all of northern Iowa, and the present State of Minnesota. Its northern boundary was the British possessions, now Manitoba. The present boundaries were established in 1847. Its first county seat was at Prairie La Porte on the site of the present city of Guttenberg.

The second white settlement attempted within the limits of Iowa was in this county. In 1795, Bazil Giard, a French-American, obtained from the Lieutenant-Governor of Louisiana a grant to a tract of land known as the “Giard Tract,” containing 5,860 acres, located in the vicinity of the present village of Giard. When the United States acquired the great territory of Louisiana, in 1803, it recognized the Spanish grants and issued a patent to Giard. This was the first legal title to property in the limits of Iowa.

The first election of county officers was held September 10, 1838, resulting in the election of the following: S. H. Masters, county judge; A. Kennedy, treasurer; F. Andros, recorder; John W. Griffith, sheriff and assessor; C. S. Edson, surveyor; J. B. Quigley, coroner; Wm. D. Grant, Robert Campbell and George Calvert, county commissioners.

The first official business transacted by this newly organized government was at Prairie La Porte, on October 6, 1838. In 1844 the county seat was moved to the site of the present town of Garnavillo. From this time until 1860 the county seat was tossed about between the towns of Garnavillo, Guttenberg and Elkader, as the voting powers of the people dictated, until it was finally located in the picturesque town of Elkader, where it now stands.

Clayton County is divided into twenty-two townships, embracing about 714 square miles of territory. There are five different railroads, operated by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway company, so located as to accommodate every part of the county in the traffic of trade and travel, there being no farm in the county that is more than ten miles from a station. The county has a frontage of thirty-five miles on the Mississippi river, with a steamboat landing every few miles. A large number of young and thrifty towns have sprung up on its broad prairies and along the bank of the river, many of which have grown into cities of importance in every branch of trade and commerce. There is a large and extensive water-power utilized by some of the largest flouring mills in the State.

There are 200 school houses, and these are so advantageously located that, with very few exceptions, no child has to travel over a mile to attend school. These buildings are durably built of the best material and are kept neat and clean inside and out under the superintendence of the efficient public officer, Superintendent Adams.

Broad highways checker the county in every direction, which are always kept in good repair, and so laid out as to accommodate every farm and place of business. During the last few years a policy has been adopted of building permanent iron and stone bridges wherever a highway intersects a stream.

The county has a large and commodious court house, and it owns and cultivates a fine and very productive poor farm with a newly erected hospital where the incurable insane receive the best of care. Notwithstanding these heavy outlays for roads, bridges and public buildings, the county is out of debt and its warrants are always at par. It can be safely asserted that Clayton County has more rich farmers and wealthy business men out of debt than any other county in the state, in proportion to population.

Three principal streams, the Turkey, Little Turkey and Volga, with their innumerable tributaries course through the county from a westerly to an easterly direction affording an abundance of the purest water. Along either bank of these streams are belts of the finest woodlands to be found in the state, and these, in addition to what is called the Mississippi timber, give to the inhabitants of the county an abundance of cheap fuel and building material. The absence of the severe, damaging storms and cyclones that have passed so near but around this county is accounted for by this profusion of timber skirting the many streams. There are numerous valuable water powers on every stream of any magnitude in the county, some of which are improved by very costly flouring mills and other manufacturing industries, but by far the greatest number are unimproved, and only awaiting the attention of the capitalist to convert them into utility.

The geology of the county is the Lower Silurian, and the different formations of this system form steps several miles wide going westward from the Mississippi, each one of which is a watershed of its own, thus furnishing to nearly every forty acre tract a good spring of pure water nearly to the highest summit level of the undulating prairies. The last great flow of glacial drift that spreads over so much of the state passed around Clayton County, with the exception of a few sections in Cass Township, leaving nearly the whole of the county with an older clay-bed and soil than in other portions of the state, and free from gravel, sand and boulders.

An assortment of the finest limestone can be found throughout the county; this, with the great banks of clay suitable for the manufacture of brick and tile, furnishes the people with cheap and durable building material. In former years lead mining was carried on in various parts of the county with more or less success. On account of the low price of this mineral its production has been temporarily abandoned.

The face of the land is a very rich, undulating prairie soil between the streams, very productive, and for the last half century has never suffered a single year from drouth or frost without producing a good crop of some valuable farm material. The temperature during the winter months is mild, there are occasionally a few days in some winters when the mercury will drop down to 30, but rarely to 40 degrees, usually it is about zero. The many belts of timber along the streams shelter the whole county from the severe cold waves that affect other less favored portions of the state.

The farming products consist of wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, barley, flax, live stock, and dairy products. Immense creameries have been established and are in operation in nearly every village and town in the county, producing a grade of butter and cheese which brings the highest price in eastern cities. The rolling condition of much of its soil produces the finest and richest pasturage for thousands of beef cattle which are annually raised and shipped to other markets.

County fairs are held annually in many of the towns, at which the farmers take pride in competing with one another in the display of the products of their farms. These fairs, well conducted and liberally patronized, enjoy a high state of prosperity. At these exhibitions may be seen the finest and richest productions of the soil that can be found anywhere in America. Also from seven to ten thousand pleasant and smiling agriculturalists of the most intelligent character.

The intellectual people of the county support many newspapers. Nearly every town has one or more weekly publications, all enjoying a liberal support from business advertisers and subscribers. The establishment of the rural free mail delivery and the installation of an universal telephone system throughout the county have added much to the pleasures of farm life, and are aiding in elevating the intellectual and business instinct of the farmer above the plane of the average city inhabitant.

In consequence of the high elevation, the pure water, the perfect drainage, the variable winds, there are no malarial diseases among the people, and cases of fever and ague are totally unknown, except a few cases during certain times of the year in the low lands along the Mississippi river. The population of the county according to the census of 1905 is 26,819.


Clayton County Government, 1905
Court House, Elkader, Iowa


County Officers:

Auditor, Thomas L. Harvey
Deputy Auditor, Otto Germer
Clerk District Court, Ray Webb
Deputy Clerk, Peter White
Recorder, James E. Webb
Sheriff, Martin Dittmer
Deputy Sheriff, Patrick J. Ryan
Treasurer, Wm. F. Reineke
Deputy Treasurer, John G. Hagensick
Attorney, Martin X. Geske
Surveyor, Ole Olson
Superintendent of Schools, Charles J. Adams
Coroner, Wm. J. Beerman
Steward of Poor Farm, Thomas F. Kelleher
Janitor Court House, James Canada

Board of Supervisors:

S.H.F. Schoulte, Chairman, Rt 2, McGregor
A.S. Houg, Rt 2, Elgin
L.S. Fisher, Rt 1, Edgewood
Clerk of Board - County Auditor, Thomas L. Harvey, Elkader
Commission of Insanity - President, Geo. H. Fletcher
Clerk Ex-Officio, Ray Webb
Commissioner, H.S. Patterson, M.D.


~source citation: Clayton County Directory - 1905. Comprising a Complete and Alphabetically Arranged List of Heads of all Families, Business and Professional Firms Residing in Clayton County and Receiving mail through the Various Post Offices in this and Parts of Adjoining Counties; pages 285- 338. Compiled by the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald for the use and benefit of subscribers, 1905.

~transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb


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