History Index



"Humboldt is one of the Upper Des Moines River Valley counties. It is eighteen miles north and south, by twenty-four miles east and west, its superficial area being 432 square miles, 276,480 acres."


"Few counties in the state are better supplied with pure running streams of water. The principal streams are the two branches of Des Moines River, Boone River, Lott's Creek, Indian Creek, Beaver Creek and Badger Creek. The west fork of the Des Moines enters the county near the northwest corner, and runs in a southeasterly course, uniting with the east fork near the south line. The east fork crosses the county from north to south near the middle. Boone River crosses the northeast corner township, passing into Wright County, and flowing south not far from the east line of Humboldt. Lott's Creek is a stream of considerable size."


"There are considerable bodies of timber bordering these streams, and also some groves along the smaller creeks. A large proportion of the county is prairie, but no part of it is more than eight miles from a grove of timber. The larger bodies of timber are found along the two branches of the Des Moines River. It consists chiefly of oak, ash, walnut, hickory, elm, and maple. There is an aggregate of about five thousand acres of native timber distributed through the county."


"The surface is generally rolling, except a small portion on the east side near Owl Lake, where there is a series of grassy marshes, which, however, may be easily drained. The valleys of the principal streams can not be excelled in fertility. The soil is the warm, mellow drift peculiar to northern Iowa."


"The county is well supplied with good stone for building purposes. Beds of limestone of the sub-carboniferous formation are exposed along both branches of the Des Moines River. The limestone at Humboldt is manufactured into a superior quality of quick-lime. At this place the exposed thickness of the strata for a considerable distance along the west fork is from twelve to fifteen feet. Above Dakota on the east fork, there is an exposure of about thirteen feet, made up of the following strata; Fragmentary, gray limestone, one foot; indurate, sandy clay, two feet; calcareous sandstone, in thin layers, six feet; and magnesia limestone, four feet. The last named is an excellent building stone."


"Peat exists in limited quantities in the eastern part of the county. In the southern part of the county, coal has been mined to a limited extent. Both branches of the Des Moines River supply an abundance of fine water power, which, when improved and fully developed, will constitute an important element in the future wealth of the county."


Early History


"Henry Lott was the first white man who is known to have erected his cabin in Humboldt County. In 1852, Lott and his step-son went up from Webster County and squatted on what is now called Lott's Creek. They cleared an acre or two of ground in the timber, while thousands of acres of the finest prairie lay spread out before them in every direction."


"A short distance below the mouth of Lott's Creek, on the west bank of the east fork of the Des Moines River, the Indian Chief, Si-dom-I-na-do-ta, and his family, nine persons in all, at that time had their lodge. In 1847, this Indian had been instrumental in ejecting Lott from what was then Indian Territory, near the mouth of Boone River. Burning with revenge for the old offense, Lott conceived and carried into execution the horrible project of murdering Si-dom-I-na-do-ta and his entire family. He and his step-son disguised themselves as Indians, in order to conceal their guilt. The chief was shot a short distance from his lodge, and two squaws and four children were murdered at the lodge. Two others, a boy and girl, made their escape to tell of the perpetrators of the deed. Years after this tragedy, the white settlers found earrings and other Indian trinkets where the murders were committed. Lott and his step-son burned their cabin and immediately left the country. The murders were committed in the Winter of 1852-'53, and were avenged by Ink-pa-du-tah and his band in the horrible butchery of the white settlers at Spirit Lake. The creek on which the murder was committed has since been known as Bloody Run."


"Among the first who arrived and made permanent settlement and improvement in the county, were Charles Bergk, August Zahten, C. Hackmann, Edward McKnight, Newton Dowling, and Solomon Hand, all of whom came in the Fall of 1854."


"The next year came George W. Hand, Fletcher Hand, Elias Casey, J. C. Casey, Eber Stone, William Miller, and perhaps others. The first settlements were made on the east fork of the Des Moines River, at and above Dakota City. Dakota City was laid out in 1856, at which time the county embraced another tier of townships on the south."


"These four townships were subsequently annexed to Webster County, a measure which gave rise to some feeling between the friends of Fort Dodge and Dakota City, the two points then aspiring to become the county seats respectively of Webster and Humboldt Counties.  Both points, however, succeeded. Under an act of the General Assembly, approved January 28, 1857, two of the commissioners appointed for the purpose, Asa C. Call and William C. Safford, in the Spring of the same year, located the County Seat of Humboldt County at Dakota City. Prior to the change in county boundary, this was near the geographical center."


"A post office was established at this place in May, 1856, being the first in the county, Charles Bergk being the post master. The first election for county officers was held on the first Monday of April, 1857; but the persons elected failed to qualify, and others were elected at the August election of the same year."


Humboldt College





'In 1863, Rev. S. H. Taft came to the county as the head of a colony of forty or more persons from Central New York. He purchased ten sections of land—a part of the Des  Moines River Grant—and disposed of it mostly to settlers. He founded at Humboldt, a college now known as Humboldt College. The edifice is a fine stone building, on an elevated location at the north edge of the town. We present a fine view of this building in the illustrations of this atlas.  In the report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, made to the General Assembly of Iowa, for 1873-4, in page 111, Humboldt College is referred to as greatly advancing the interests of education by the opportunity it has given to teachers to more thoroughly qualify themselves for their work; and much satisfaction is expressed on account of the large number who had availed themselves of its advantages.  To show the objects and aims of the founders of this college, we give an extract from a speech delivered by Rev. S. H. Taft, in reference to his efforts to "establish a truly Christian College in the West."


"Accordingly ten years since, I purchased a few thousand acres of land of the State of Iowa, and in the Spring of 1863, in company with a small colony, emigrated from Central New York to the Des Moines Valley, which lies four hundred miles beyond Chicago, and commenced the building up of society and a town, preliminary to my educational work.  There are now many thousand people in that part of the state where there were then but a few hundred widely separated pioneers. Our privations though great, were only such as are common to the settlers of a new country, far removed from society and commercial centers."


"Our first concern was to obtain shelter, which was of the most primitive and humble character; a number of families living in cellars, as it was almost impossible to get lumber for building until a saw mill was erected, which it took over a year to accomplish. We carried with us some large coffee mills, with which to grind wheat and corn, and found them of great service during nearly two years which passed before we got our flouring mill in operation.  But when at last it was completed, and we could have bread manufactured from bolted flour of our own production, it was made an occasion of general rejoicing, and hundreds were present at the celebration. Toasts were drank (in nothing stronger than lemonade), speeches made, and songs and hymns sung in honor of the important event."


"Step by step, from this humble beginning, we have moved on, until we have now thousands of acres under cultivation, a thriving town of much beauty, in which no beer saloon is tolerated, and are enjoying many of the blessings of a well organized community. We have a church which recognizes the inherent right of every Christian to fellowship and membership, regardless of his creed. While some of us individually hold very pronounced opinions, we have formulated no creed to impose upon the conscience of any one as a condition of fellowship, feeling that we have no more right to do so than the children of a household have to impose conditions upon one of their number precedent to his enjoying the common blessings which the Father designed for all his children. We have a flourishing Sunday School, as also literary and musical associations. So much had first to be done to command the bare necessities of life, that little was accomplished towards the establishment of the college, until three years ago, when I commenced in earnest my chosen life work. Many deeply interesting experiences and incidents have attended the work, but of them I may not speak on this occasion, other than to remark that it has received the favorable notice of the National Liberal Christian Conference, and of the American Unitarian Association, as also the hearty endorsement of a large number of distinguished scholars and divines, and has been signally blessed of God. I also take pleasure in acknowledging my obligation to the Old and New, Religious Monthly, Christian Register, and Liberal Christian, for the encouragement they have given me."