Jefferson County Online
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The First Regular Election
and Court House Furniture

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 401-402, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



The first regular and general election held in Jefferson County, was under provisions of an act entitled, "An act providing for and regulating General Elections in this Territory," approved January 25, 1839. Section 1 provided that an election for members of the House of Representatives and for county officers, should take place on the first Monday in that and each succeeding year, and that an election for Delegate to Congress, for members of the Council and County Recorder should take place on the first Monday in August, 1840, and on the same day in every second year thereafter.

Two of the old Board of County Commissioners -- John J. Smith and Daniel Sears -- held over. William Hueston was elected to succeed B. F. Chastain. Section 2 of an act entitled "An act organizing a Board of County Commisssioners (sic) in each County in the Territory of Iowa," approved December 14, 1838, provided that the person having the highest number of votes should serve three years; that the person having the next highest number of votes should serve one year. From the fact that Mr. Hueston come to succeed Mr. Chastain, it would seem evident that he had received the lowest number of votes at the first election, and that he was only entitled to serve until the next general election.

The new Board met and organized on the 19th of August. After the organization, the Board adjourned until the first Monday in September. The old journal shows that the business of this session was conducted by the old Board -- John J. Smith, Daniel Sears and B. F. Chastain. Whether the Clerk made a mistake in attaching the signatures of the Commissioners, or whether it was found that the term of Mr. Chastain had not expired, is a proposition that we will not attempt to determine. We simply present the facts.

The examination and allowance of accounts, the granting of road views, the appointment of Viewers, management and disposition of town lots, etc., etc., occupied most of the subsequent sessions of that year, and are of no special historic interest, hence no attempt has been made to give the "orders" of the Board in detail. Suffice to say that the first and second Boards were govered by a commendable spirit of economy in all their official transactions. The following order would indicate that an "unpleasantness" of some nature came up between the Board and its Clerk:

Ordered, That Samuel Shuffleton be appointed Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, in place of John A. Pitzer, removed.

But the order does not reveal the cause of the removal. Shuffleton was sworn and entered upon the duties of the office.

November 29, at a special meeting of the Board, it was "Ordered that the town of Fairfield be and the same is hereby constituted a precinct for election purposes." John T. Moberly, L. W. Saunders and William Olney were appointed to be Judges of Election.

At the same meeting, Samuel Shuffleton was appointed agent to manage the sale of town lots, receive money therefor, etc.

At a special meeting, on the 21st day of December, 1839, present, John J. Smith and Daniel Sears, the Board "proceeded to examine the Court House, and find that the county is indebted for the building, painting and extra work on said house, $195.50." Of this amount, the sum of $113.13 was garnished at the instance of Augustus Jackson, a creditor of Olney's. Judgment was rendered against the Commissioners for that amount, which left a balance to Mr. Olney of $82.36, which was allowed and ordered to be paid.


At the January meeting 1840, the Commissioners directed the Clerk to "issue notices of the letting of the following work, to be done by the 20th of March: The making of one bench for the Judge of Court, eight and one-half feet in length and four feet wide, paneled front; two jury-seats, each eight feet long, well backed; one seat, eight feet long, to be placed opposite the Judge's bench. Also, a rough plank partition, eight by twenty feet; also the erection of one flight of stairs, ten feet high, with good and sufficient railing; and stairs to be erected and an entrance made for the same in the northwest corner of the Court House, and the entrance now opened in the southwest corner to be closed." Such were the "finishings" and furniture of the pioneer Court House. The contract for the above work was awarded to Gilbert M. Fox; price, $175. The lathing and plastering of the Court House was awarded to Thomas D. Jones, at 45 cents per square yard. This contract was awarded at the regular July meeting, 1840.

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