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McCook County - The early history

McCook County was named after Edwin S. McCook, a Civil War General and Secretary of Dakota Territory.

McCook County was carved out by the legislature of 1873 under the governorship of William A. Howard. On May 10, 1878 a small band of men, among them M.A. Lange, left Decorah, Iowa to come west. They came to Sioux Falls and heard that John D. Cameron was starting a settlement 22 miles west of there. The men decided to move on to the new settlement. They came to Lee's Crossing later known as Andy Waechter's crossing on the Vermillion River, and found that there were very few people living in the area. Amond those who had come before the Lange party were Charles Millard, Mr. Knox, John D. Hutchinson, Lawson Wells, M. Davenport, Carley McCrary, and Mr. G. Miller who was the first settler in the county.

On May 23, 1878, Mr. Lange and his brother Will, along with some of the other men in the party, filed claims in teh Emery Township. This was probably the first filing done in the western part of McCook County. The men broke up small tracts of land and built sod cabins to hold their claims. The returned to Iowa for the winter, but came back to their claims in the spring.

McCook County was organized on June 15, 1878. The size of the county was made out to be 24 by 24 miles which was divided into 16 townships: Pearl; Sun Prairie; Brookfield; Ramsey; Benton; Salem; Richland; Montrose; Jefferson; Emery; Canistota; Greeland; Bridgewater; Union; Grand and Spring Valley. The county was named for Edwin S. McCook, a Civil War General and Secretary of Dakota Territory. McCook was a member of the famous family of "fighting McCooks" of Ohio, six of whom won general's stars in the Civil War. He was shot and killed at Yankton in 1873 by Peter Wintermute as a result of a bitter political battle between the two men. Wintermute was convicted of the murder in the first trial but appealed the case and was acquitted.

The first McCook County Commissioners meeting was held on June 15, 1878. The commissioners had been appointed by Governor Howard of Dakota Territory and were David and Isaac Manary and William H. Wells. The first meeting was held at Cameron with Wm. H. Wells being elected as chairman of the board for the first term. County officers appointed by the commissioners until the next general election were John D. Cameron, Register of Deeds and County Clerk; Walter S. Price, Treasurer; James Manary, Sheriff; Andrew Burger, County Superintendent of Schools; John Hutchinson, Chris Saft and Peter Muench, Justices of the Peace; Damon E. Wells, Judge of Probate; G.P. Cross, County Surveyor and County Attorney, Charles S. Millard, H.G. Miller, David Manary and Lar Harris, Constables. At the meeting it was decided that the county seat should be located at Cameron in the southeast quarter of Section 35, Canistota Township. Shortly after the second meeting, John D. Cameron resigned as Register of Deeds and County Clerk. He turned over the records of the offices which included one mortgage record, one warranty deed rercord and one miscellaneous record. L.N. Van Vranken was appointed to take his place. At the same meeting it was voted that there be only one precinct in the next territorial and county election will polls located at Cameron. William H. Wells, J.W. Clark and George W. Carr were appointed as judges for the upcoming election.

January 6, 1879 was the first meeting of the Board of Commissioners elected at the first county election on November 5, 1878. Those elected were Damon E. Wells, Charles S. Millard and Lyman Turner. L.N. Van Vranken retained his position as clerk. There is no official record of the other county officers chosen at the first county election. One source names those elected as L.N. Van Vranken, Register of Deeds, J.W. Bullard, Treasurer; W.J. Clark, Sheriff; Rev. Thos. Schaefer, Superintenden of Schools, Nick Reecy, Assessor; J.G. Carter, Judge of Probate, M.A. Lange, Surveyor and J.J. Carter, Coroner. Other references in the commissioners record book named W.S. Buren as Superintendent of Schools; W.C. Landphier, Assessor; F.P. Dobson, County Surveyor; W.H. Wells, Justice of the Peace; and Matt White, Sheriff.

The above information was quoted and taken from Within These Borders, published in McCook County 1976 and author or authors are unknown.

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