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HISTORY OF CARROLL COUNTY IOWA
A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement
VOLUME I ILLUSTRATED
CHICAGO THE S. J. CLARKE PUBLISHING COMPANY 1912
Digitized for Microsoft Corporation
by the Internet Archive in 2008.
From New York Public Library.
May be used for non-commercial, personal, research, or education purposes, or any fair use.
May not be indexed in a commercial service.
Transcribed and donated
by Marilyn Setzler.
EARLY SETTLEMENT OF THE COUNTY—THE PIONEERS AND THEIR DIFFICULTIES—JUDGE CAIN CONVENED COUNTY COURT IN 1855—NATURE OF THE COURT AND THE SORT OF BUSINESS DISPOSED OF—THE LOCATION OF THE COUNTY SEAT AT CARROLLTON ORDERED BY HON. H. E. SEARS—MISCELLANEOUS MATTERS OF EARLY HISTORY—THE FIRST TAX LEVY—SLOW INCREASE OF POPULATION—FIRST TERM OF STATE COURT IN 1858, MARSHAL F. MOORE, PRESIDING JUDGE—THE FIRST GRAND AND PETIT JURORS EMBODIED ENTIRE ADULT MALE POPULATION—CARROLL COUNTY'S SWAMP LAND GRANT—GIFT TO AID COUNTY IN ESTABLISHING PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS.
At this point in the narrative of its social and civil
evolution Carroll county has assumed a form in
readiness for law and order to take up a permanent abode, with the machinery at
hand with which to compel obedience. The life of the community, however,
underwent but little change. So far as known there was no crime and neighbors
lived together in peace and amity. There was little or no money in the country
to tempt the cupidity of those inclined to avarice. Some time later in the
pioneer period there were horse thieves whose raids among the settlers were a
sore plague to them, but at this time there could be no such depredations
because there were no horses. The work of the settlements not done by human
hands was done by ox teams, and these were so scarce that it may be said that
all of the labor not beyond man's power was done by the wear and tear of human
muscles. In making their clearings and building their cabins an amount of toil
was involved that would appall the modern pioneer. Only the axe and a few other
primitive tools, among which the maul and wedge were next in importance to the
axe, were known so far out upon the frontier. The raw material for home
building stood upright in the forest, but the business of converting a tree
into a house was a far cry when there was no division of labor and the settler
was his own woodman, sawyer, carpenter, plasterer, etc., as well as his own
carrier and architect. To be sure, the neighbors helped each other, and a house
raising was an event to which society from far and near flocked for a
celebration and a good time, but the toil and drudgery by which these earliest
of the Carroll county pioneers came into possession of a dwelling place, to say
nothing of their remoteness from civilization and isolation from the
conveniences and social life of the eastern states from which they came, many
times sickened them to the heart with discouragement and dread. Their nearest
doctor was at Panora, thirty miles away, and it was sixty miles to the nearest
grist mill, south of Boonesboro, in Boone county, on the
These are, however, the common experiences of the original
On the last day of December, 1855, Judge Cain, the newly
elected head of the county administration, convened
court in one of the rooms of his log house on the North Coon. The office of
county judge has long ceased to exist, but for the time it was an important
one, having for its chief duties the labors which now fall upon the auditor and
board of supervisors. The county court also had jurisdiction at the time Judge
Cain was elected over certain minor criminal and civil matters. Of these it was
shorn before the office was finally abolished in 1859, when its only scope as a
court consisted in a limited degree of authority over the work of
administrators of estates and probate affairs. It is said to have been the
practice of many of the county judges to usurp such authority as the law failed
to provide and rule over the people and their affairs with a single and iron
hand. Complaints were made that the Czar of all the Russias
would have paled into a shadow in the presence of an Iowa county judge before
he forced himself to be abolished; but this character of judge was certainly
not that of Judge Cain, who was honest, fat and jolly and of whom his
constituents had no reason to complain as an official. But it seems the judge
was somewhat given to deep potations and inclined to neglect business for the
sake of betting on his ability with the rifle and taking financial risk in
other forms of skill and chance upon which the moral sense of the community was
disposed to frown. Let this be as it may. So far as there is a record by which
to be guided the judge presided over his court with necessary dignity and
disposed of such business as came before him with diligence and equity. His
first official act was to allow James White four dollars for hauling the laws
"Whereas, we, the undersigned, were appointed by Hon.
H. E. Sears, district judge of the Sixth Judicial District of the State of
Iowa, on the 14th day of April, 1856, commissioners to locate the seat of
justice or county seat of Carroll county, in the state of Iowa, we therefore,
in conformity to said appointment, after having duly qualified according to
law, and after mature deliberation and carefully reviewing and examining all
and every proposed site within the bounds of the said county of Carroll, having
due regard for the welfare and prospects of the people of the said county, also
the welfare, prospects and convenience of the future as well as the present
population of said county, do hereby, by the power vested in us, locate the
permanent county seat of said county of Carroll, in the state of Iowa, on the
north fractional half of the northeast quarter of section one in township
eighty-two north of range thirty-four west of the fifth principal meridian, and
on the south half of the southeast quarter of section thirty-six in township
eighty-three north, range thirty-four west of the fifth principal meridian, and
on which the town of Carrollton is now laid out, and also such additional
territory as may be donated on either side of the premises aforesaid, or that
may be purchased by the proper authorities of said county at any time and added
thereto without limit."
The townsite [sic] of
The first tax levy made after the organization of the county (some time in 1856) was as follows:
State tax, one and one-quarter mills; County tax, six mills; School tax, one mill; Road tax, three mills; Poll tax, $2.00; County Poll tax, 50 cents.
The proceeds of this levy are not to be found, but it is safe to say that the total income for the next year, as was the case in the immediately ensuing years, was not over a few hundred dollars. The sum was not large, but with honest expenditure it was sufficient.
The first marriage license issued in Carroll county was granted to Joseph Ford and Sarah Ochempaugh and bears date of
E. M. Betzer as clerk on
From 1856 to 1860 the tide of life ran calmly in Carroll county. The obscurity of the few public records that remain
and the fact that many of the documents of the time were lost, mislaid or
burned puts out of the question any exact accounting for the period. As has
before been mentioned the census of 1856 gave to the county at the outset a
population of 251. Four years later this number, according to the national
census of 1860, had increased to 281, an increase of thirty or at the ratio of
less than eight souls per year. The period was one of great depression all over
The first state court was held at
The first grand jury summoned, and which was an adjunct of this court, was composed of Cornelius Higgins, Benjamin Teller, Mathew Borders, Lafayette McCurdy, Crockett Ribble, Robert Morris, William Short, Robert Dixon, Elijah Puckett, Cyrus Rhoads, James Colclo, David Scott, David Frasier, Samuel Lyon and Amos Bason. This jury elected James Colclo for its foreman. Its deliberations were raised after a brief conference and it reported to the court that its survey of the situation had been without result.
The petit jury of the term consisted of the following citizens: S. L. Loomis, Conrad Geiselhart, Ribert Hill [sic corr= Robert Hill], John Conrad, Jacob Cressinger, J. Ferguson, C. R. Babbitt, Wm. Ochempaugh, Nelson Moore, Alphus Stevens, Levi Thompson, J. Y. Anderson, George Ribble, Wm. Gilley, H. L. Youtz.
The poll books from which these juries were drawn show that but thirty-five votes registered at the preceding election. As the two juries contain thirty of them the lists give us the names of practically all. The absentees were probably county and court officers.
An act was passed by congress in 1850 giving to the several counties of the state, organized and to be organized, an equal right and part in the swamp lands of the state, and a grant was made to the state for this purpose by the national government of all of the lands of this description found within its boundaries. The granted lands were to some extent indicated in the field notes accompanying the original surveys. These limitations, however, were not final. Authority was given into the hands of the counties to verify these swamp land districts and to add to them such lands not included in the original descriptions as would properly fall under the designation of swamp lands, or on the other hand remove from the inventories lands found not to be of a swampy nature.
The findings by the county authorities were made subject to
correction by the interior department at
Suffice it to say that under the swamp land grant the state came into the possession of a modicum of swamp and great areas as valuable as any of the lands of the public domain from which it was separated. Moreover, at this time the best of the prairie land was regarded as worthless and it was generally held that only the land along the streams would ever be occupied. The congress and the state could afford to be lavish with something that was of no value. The plan of distribution was fair, however, the state holding the lands in custody for the counties, and distributing to them, when they were prepared to receive it, not their own swamp or waste land only, but the proportionate part to which each county was entitled of all of the lands conveyed by the grant. In other words and to illustrate, Carroll county was far short of its proportionate share of swamp lands. Less than three thousand acres of its area were thus designated. It was entitled to much more than this, and the excess to which it was entitled was at liberty to be found in any county in which swamp lands existed to the value or number of acres which fell to its share. Thus Carroll county at the time of the distribution was granted by the state three thousand acres or its own swamp lands—the figures are approximate, not exact—together with thirty-five to thirty-seven thousand acres in other counties as located by a commissioner of the Interior department. The swamp lands ceded to Carroll county by the state in this manner amounted to about 38,000 acres or its equivalent in land certificates. The intent of the parent government in making this liberal cession to the counties was in every way commendable. It was believed that a wise use of the property would provide them with court houses, jails and the other improvements and thus give them help during the period of their struggling growth. It is unfortunate that a benevolence so commendable should prove so wide in its miscarriage. It is but fair to say that in practically every county in the state gross frauds were employed to dissipate this property and divert it from public uses. Carroll county was not alone in this profligacy. But, as we have already stated, that is another story.
We are able to give at present the following particulars
from authentic sources: On
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