Search billions of records on

Visit the IAGenWeb!Visit the USGenWeb! Carroll County, Iowa
IAGenWeb  Project
Carroll County Genealogy

If you have information to share, please contact the  County Coordinator.

    Page One     Page Two     Page Three



     One of the risks to home and property, encountered by the early settlers was the prairie fire. These fires originated in many different ways; sometimes they were set out by Indians or settlers purposely and sometimes permitted through carelessness; sometimes a careless rider over the vast prairie after lighting his pipe would toss the burning match amid the tall grasses at his side, at first a spark, a tiny blaze, then a flame leaped upward, was caught by the wind and with the speed of a race horse the northland was on fire. These fires would occur every autumn and settlers could not always succeed in defending themselves against the destroying element. Often a fire was started to bewilder game, or to bare a piece of ground for the early grazing of stock the ensuing spring, and it would get away under a wind and soon be beyond control. Violent winds would often arise and drive the flames with such rapidity that riders on the fleetest steeds could scarcely escape. On the approach of a prairie fire the farmer would immediately set about "cutting off" supplies for the devouring enemy by a "back fire." Thus by starting a small fire near the bare ground and letting it burn back against the wind he could keep it under control and thus burn off a strip around him which would prevent the attack of the oncoming flames. A few furrows or a ditch around the farm were in some degree a protection.
       An original prairie of tall and exuberant grass on fire, especially at night, was a magnificent spectacle, enjoyed only by the pioneer. To a person who has ever witnessed a prairie fire at night, though it may have been long years ago and in his boyhood days, the impressions made upon his memory of that event can never be affaced or forgotten.
     Sometimes these fires would start hundreds of miles distant in the northland and the first sign of them would be a red, livid sky at night away to the north and the old settlers would know that a fire, though far away, was coming upon them. The next day perhaps it would be "smoky" and the next night the whole northern sky would be all aglow with a fierce and lurid light and finally when the roaring, leaping flames came in view a great line of fire extended along the horizon, and great torrents of flame curled and leaped along in resistless splendor, while dark clouds of crimson smoke swept over the sky until moon and stars were almost obscured. Then the rushing, crashing sounds, like roaring cataracts mingled with thunder, were almost deafening, while danger and death glared around and screamed for victims.
     Too much credit cannot be given to the "old settlers," the brave men and women who experienced the privations and trials of pioneer life and of making a home on the wild and wind-swept prairies of the West. There were many long days of sadness and distress. The endearments of home in another land had been broken up; and all that was hallowed on earth, the home of childhood, and the scenes of youth, were severed.
Many of the settlers had nothing to begin with, save the hands, health and courage and their family jewels, "the pledges of love," and the "consumers of bread." It was not easy to accumulate money in the early days of the State, and the "beautiful prairies," the "noble streams," and all the romance and poetic imagery did not prevent the early settlers from becoming discouraged.
     To offset all the discouragements, however, was the open hospitality, social equality and freedom of spirit that was found nowhere else and among the few that now remain, who lived in the days of that old regime, they sometimes sigh for the old times once more.
     The following poem was written by Marie Louise Follett, of Le Claire, Iowa, and used as a recitation at the pioneer settlers' annual meeting at the Scott County Fair Grounds, 1898:

The old times are left far behind us,
The old times so jolly and free;
Only memories bright now remind us,
How merry in old times were we.
     Bring back; bring back the old times to me.

We had house-raisings, choppings and huskings, And quiltings and wool-pickings, too;
Only think of the dance in the evenings;
Was there ever such pleasure in view,
     Bring back; bring back the pleasure to me.

Quail pie and corn-pone in the oven,
Prairie chickens, a dish for a king,
Venison, turkeys and squirrels at 'even,
With pride would our hunters home bring.
     Bring back; bring back the wild game to me.

Potatoes that caused us to wonder;
Colors, purple and pink, blue and white;
Prairie flowers that grew the ground under,
When cooked they were mealy and light.
     Bring back; bring back the "taters" to me.

And such smearcase and greens in spring-time, And butter so golden and sweet;
All sorts of wild fruits in the summer;
In old times we had dainties to eat.
     Bring back; bring back the dainties to me.

Flowers, purple and yellow and crimson,
White daisies and star blossoms blue;
Sure a rainbow had painted the prairie,
So varied and brilliant in hue.
     Bring back; bring back the wild flowers to me.

We had preaching sometimes at the schoolhouse God's spirit shown down from above;
And the singing school all through the winter,
We learned music and lessons in love.
     Bring hack; bring back the lessons to me.

All hail; and farewell to the old times;
We'll cherish the years that remain;
As each autumn returns in her beauty,
Please heaven we'll all meet again.
     Meet again, greet again;
                                 in heaven we'll all meet again.

     Carroll county is in the center of the state north and south, and in the third tier of counties east from the Missouri river, and was named-after Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is twenty-four miles square, containing 576 square miles of surface or 368,640 acres. It was formerly attached to Guthrie county for judicial and other reasons.
     The surface is somewhat diversified, much of it being smooth or gently rolling, but some of it is rather rough and broken. It embraces within its limits a section of the dividing ridge or watershed that starts some of its waters towards the Mississippi and some towards the Missouri river.
The principal stream that traverses the county is Coon River, and besides this there are many small tributaries. Cool, clear and sparkling water can be obtained almost anywhere by digging to a depth of 15 or 20 feet.
     The highest point in the county is 858 feet above Lake Michigan and 800 feet above the Mississippi river at Clinton. This elevation affords a fine view of the surrounding country. Among the streams that water and drain its surface are the North Raccoon, Brushy Fork, Storm, Willow and Whiteds creeks, East Nishnabotna and Boyer rivers.
     The soil varies somewhat in kind in different localities, but is universally rich and productive. Along the river bottom the soil is a rich dark loam, somewhat mixed with sand and exceedingly fertile, and closely resembles the loamy deposits in the valley of the Nile in Egypt, or the soil of the Yazoo valley, both famous the world over for their richness.
     On the divides and high prairies the soil is composed of what geologists term bluff deposits—a yellowish colored fine material more or less calcareous, with which is mixed a small percentage of clay.
     Native timber is scarce and found only along the streams. Farmers who in years past have set out trees in the rich deep soil of this county, now have as fine groves as one could wish, standing as a living monument to those who planted and eared for them.
     The early settlement of the twenty was an era of great speculation, and, an it ante-dated the homestead and land limitation act, the eastern speculators who thronged the land offices of the state were only limited in their entries by their cash, their cupidity and their caution and, as a natural result, the lands were in the first instance largely held by eastern or non-resident owners who, in many cases, owned considerable tracts. Hence the first settlers were generally men of small holdings. For emigrants, the county did little more than grant them reluctant right-of-way across its fertile lands, as they steered their “prairie schooners" to the drouth-stricken, grasshopper-raided plains beyond or up the Missouri river. Time however, and the logic of events, wrought the solution and changed the abnormal condition, thus settling up the county with well-to-do and enterprising people. The result was that prices of land advanced and, where the figures reached the ideas fixed by eastern speculators thirty years before, they were glad to "unload" and cease paying taxes.


     Corn is king and an average yield is forty bushels per acre. It never fails and planting is often done two weeks earlier than in Northern Illinois. Oats are superior to any grown in Illinois, Wisconsin or Southern Iowa. Wheat, barley, rye and potatoes also are sure crops and are largely grown. Everything the farmer plants and properly cultivates, whether a hill of beans or a thousand acres of corn, will yield a great harvest; for anything he attempts to raise in the way of live stock, from a brood of chicks to a herd of shorthorn cattle, he is going to receive good returns if they are given half a chance. This is the paradise of the stockman and farmer. Nature so intended it to be. It is an established fact that Carroll county soil will produce anything and everything grown in a diversified farming country. There are numerous farmers in the county who came here at an early day with no capital at all and were renters for several years, but today own large, well-improved farms, and have snug little fortunes to their credit in the local banks. Of course, there are farmers who will always be renters, no matter how productive the soil or what opportunities may be afforded them in the country in which they may locate; but farmers who have the necessary push and energy, and are endowed with a reasonable amount of frugality and thrift, cannot help but succeed in Carroll county.
     The first settlement was made by Enos Buttrick in 1854. He settled in the east central part of the county.
     The first election was held at the house of Henry Coplin in the southeasterly part of the county, in August, 1855. The following officers were elected: A. J. Cain, county judge; Levi Thompson, clerk; James White, treasurer and recorder; Robert Lloyd, surveyor; L. McCurdy, attorney, anti J. Y. Anderson, sheriff. At this time the population of the county was about 100.
     The first school taught in the county was by Jane L. Hill, at Carrollton, in 1856, and the first newspaper was published at the same place by Mr. Manning and called the Carroll Enterprise.
     The first marriage license was issued to Joseph Ford and Sarah Ochampaugh, September 16, 1855, and they were married a week later by A. J. Cain, county judge.
     An old Indian trail is still decipherable that in the early settlement or before was railed the War Path, and was considered the dividing line between the hunting grounds of the Sioux and Pottawattamie Indians. It was said to be a death penalty for an Indian of one tribe to be found hunting on the grounds of the other. Stories are told of a terrible battle fought near Crescent Lake about a mile south of Carroll Center, between the Sioux and the Pottawattamies over infringements of the law in regard to their hunting grounds It is related that at the close of the battle every Sioux warrior who engaged in the conflict was dead, and all but three of the Pottawattamies. The bodies of the dead made feasts for the wolves and their bones were left to bleach in the summer sun for many years afterwards.


     If you will examine carefully the map of Iowa, you will observe that no town in the state is better located for a distributing point than Carroll. The Chicago Great Western and the Chicago & North-Western, the latter with its two important branches, afford direct communication east, west, north and south. Towns situated on any of these lines of railway within a distance of forty miles on either side of Carroll, are more accessible than from Des Moines, Sioux City, Council Bluffs or Marshalltown. Carroll is the natural base of supplies for a region covered by a radius of at least 50 miles.
     Carroll has never had what might be called a "boom." From its birth its growth has been substantial. In 1870 the population was 344; in 1873, 563; in 1875, 812; in 1880, 1,385; in 1885, 1,835; in 1890, 2,428; in 1900, 2,882; in 1905, 3,205.
     The surrounding county is of that nature which insures an everlasting and enviable local trade that can never be wholly cut off by rival towns, while her artificial strength is increased by reason of the great trunk lines of railways that span the vast territory on each side, giving direct connection with competing lines in every direction.
     Being surrounded by a country having large agricultural resources, and possessing a class of energetic, wide awake and experienced business men, who know how to make the best possible use of the advantages within their reach, Carroll is destined to remain one of the important towns of western Iowa.
Carroll was first platted in August, 1867.
     The new town seems to have been backed by valuable friends from the start, for almost before it had gained a name on the map of the county it had a petition before the board of supervisors for an election to remove the county seat from Carrollton. The petition was granted and the election held the second Tuesday in October, 1867. The total votes were only 118, but of these 88 were in favor of removal and 30 for retaining the county seat at Carrollton. A few of the citizens of the latter place entered a vigorous protest, charging fraud and railroad domination and steps were immediately taken to prevent the legal removal of the records, alleging informality in the petition and failure to comply with the law regarding elections for the removal of county seats. It was also alleged that no such place as "Carroll City" had a legal existence at the time of holding the election and therefore was not eligible to become the county seat. The protest contained the following appeal: "Do not bow to railroad interests. We know they are mighty, but Carroll county and Carroll citizens are more mighty than they."
     Carroll may have existed for a brief time without a name, but there was a force, or something behind it which ruled its destiny, and in spite of the protests, the supervisors ordered the removal of the records, etc., which was done April 28, 1868.
     The business of the county was done and the records kept in a house leased to the county by William Gilley, at $50 per month for a term of sixteen months. The county fathers soon concluded, however, that it was impolitic to continue paying rent for offices, etc., and a proposition was submitted to the general election of 1868 providing for the levying of a tax for courthouse purposes. It met with defeat, however, there being but 53 votes for the proposition and 169 against it. The former were probably largely cast by the citizens of Carroll, while the rest of the county was apparently united against the town. The agitation for a courthouse kept up, however, and, in 1869, at the January session of the board, a petition was presented asking that an appropriation be made for erecting a county building. Among the petitioners are noted the following familiar names: William Gilley, G. P. Wetherill, J. K. Deal, E. Griffith, J. H. Colclo and Thos. Elwood. The board could not agree, there being a disposition to purchase a lot for the new building, to which the petitioners objected, as the present square had already been procured and donated to the county for courthouse purposes by the Blair Town Lot and Land Company. The matter was therefore laid over until the April session, when a much larger petition was presented. A resolution was then passed authorizing the clerk to employ John W. King to draw plans and specifications and advertise for bids for a building not to exceed $4,000. The building erected under this resolution was occupied until the spring of 1886 when fire destroyed a part of it. The offices were then removed to the Joyce Lumber Company's office building which was used for a court room. In the meantime there had been several futile attempts to get the voters to levy a tax on themselves for a new courthouse, but to no avail. At the general election, November 3, 1885, such an election was taken, resulting in 1,557 against the tax and 1,248 for. The supervisors seemed to think that another effort would succeed, for a month later, December 8, 1885, a special election was held under an order of the board, but again the tax failed to carry, this time by a narrow margin, the vote being 1,119 and 1,156 against. After the fire, however, and with the county again paying rent for the various offices and a court room, the taxpayers took a different view of the situation. In November of 1886 the question of issuing $50,000 bonds was submitted and carried by the vote of 1,885 to 1444. With the money thus raised the present splendid building and jail were erected the following year, 1887. It has the finest location of any court house in the Middle West, and stands on a natural elevation in the center of the town.
     In 1869, Carroll became a city of the second class, 0. H. Manning, William Gilley, and a Mr. Tracy being commissioners of incorporation.
     The first municipal officers under the corporation were I. N. Griffith, mayor; B. S. Terry, recorder; J. E. Griffith, treasurer; Thomas Bosler, marshal: J. W. King, Dr. Wayne, F. Dennett, L. C. Bailey and Will lam Boots, commissioners.
     I. N. Griffith opened the first general store and Daniel Griffith the first furniture store.
     The first child born was Carroll Kidder, or "Carrie" Kidder as she was generally called, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Kidder. Mr. Kidder was the first postmaster of Carroll. The family subsequently removed to Utah.
     J. M. Patty was the first doctor to locate in the town. J. H. Colclo kept the first hotel.

    Page One     Page Two     Page Three

These pages were designed and are maintained by IAGenWeb, solely for the use and benefit of the IAGenWeb Project, a part of the USGenWeb Project.
Copyright 1997 by IAGenWeb & the Contributor of the specific information.   Rootsweb Please read the IAGenWeb Terms, Conditions, & Disclaimer  — all of which apply to Carroll Co.

Back to top of page                             Return to Carroll Co. IAGenWeb Home                             Back to top of page

Photo background collage is made from colorized penny postcards donated to the USGenWeb Archives