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The 1879 History of Jones County Iowa was transcribed by Janet A. Brandt.


The first court held in Jones County was presided over by Judge Thomas S. Wilson, and was in session at Edinburg, the first county seat, March 22, 1841.
The grand jurors on that occasion were as follows: Moses Collins, Thomas Dickson, Charles Johnson, B. Beardsley, William Clark, Jackson Peak, Isaac H. Simpson, T. Crook, L. A. Simpson, Orvill Cronkhite, Joseph H. Merritt, S. I. Dunhan, H Winchell, I. Tate, M. Lupton, J. C. Raffety, David Killham, A. Hostetter, John G. Joslin, G. H. Ford, Henry Booth, C. C. Reed, Ambrose Parsons.
The petit jurors were F. Dalbey, Joshua Johnson, G. B. Laughlin, Barrett Whittemore, J. E. Greene, Daniel Vance, Richard Cleveland, I. Merritt, Moses Garrison, Alexander Staney, Jacob Cornwall, Benjamin Chaplin, J. E. Lovejoy, P. H. Turner, W. H. Jones, Alvin Winchell, Harry Hargodem, O Delong, C. Russell, James Spencer, George H. Brown, Clark Joslin, Eli Brown, George H. Walworth.
The only indictment found by the grand jury is recorded as follows:

Indictment for assault to commit great bodily
injury. A true bill.

Two cases came up for hearing, both being by appeal from Justices' Courts. One was dismissed, and the other continued until the next session of court. The first court continued two days. The petit jury was not called.
The next court was held September, 1841.
We find no record of a term of court from September, 1845, till May, 1847. During this time, the county seat was at Newport. In May, 1847, Judge Wilson presided at Edinburg, and in September, 1847, at Lexington.


In April, 1841, we find $6 appropriated to Donald Sutherland for rent of rooms in which the County Board had held its meetings.
Henry Hopkins was the first Prosecuting Attorney, and was allowed $34 for his services, at the meeting of the Board in March, 1842.
October 3, 1842, was approved the Territorial road from Dubuque to Marion, on that portion of it which was included in Jones County. James Butler and P. Scott were the Commissioners appointed by the Legislature to view the same.
The first licensed ferry of which we have record was granted Adam Overacker, across the Wapsipinicon at Newport. The license was for the consideration of $2, continued for one year from April 13 1847. A two-horse vehicle was charged 25 cents; one-horse, 12 ½ cents; footman, 6 ½ cents, etc.
In order to fund the increasing floating indebtedness, and to maintain the county warrants as near par as possible, it was ordered, October 7, 1850, that the Clerk of Commissioners' Court issue bonds of the county, bearing 10 per cent interest, due in five years, the bonds to be for $50 each, and not to exceed forty in number. These bonds were to be issued to any one who would present the Treasurer's receipt for the amount of their face.
In 1851-1852, various State roads were surveyed and platted, among which were highways from Anamosa to Bellevue; Anamosa to Garnavillo; Clayton County; Cascade, by way of Canton, to Maquoketa; Cascade to Garry Owen; Denson's Ferry to the house of Thomas McNally; Anamosa to the Davenport and Marion road; Anamosa to Camanche; Fairview to Tipton.
Almost every Western county has found the location of a permanent seat of justice a vexatious problem. In this respect, Jones County has not been an exception.
The Commissioners appointed by the Legislature for the purpose of choosing a site for the county seat fixed upon a spot one-half mile north of the geographical center of the county, as has been elsewhere related. The town here laid out received the name of Edinburg. As yet, we cannot say with Burns:

"Edina! Scotia's darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and towers!"

The palaces and towers did not grow. The soil was obstinate. A quagmire was its only park; the wild prairie its only scenery. A visitor thus describes it:
"Edinburg was a city of grass. Its streets run in all directions. In fact, it was all street. You could wander over its entire extent without getting sight of a single wall, brick, stone or wood. The earth below and the blue vault above were the only signs that the place was intended for human habitation; and, as all cities require ornament of some kind, a bounteous nature had planted there and reared a few scattering trees. Such was Edinburg in the summer of 1840."
A log cabin was erected as a Court House, commodious in size for the sparse population of Jones County in that day, in which Judge Wilson dispensed the justice meted out to Territorial settlers by the Federal Court. In April, 1841, we find, by the Commissioners' record, that E. Sutherland was allowed $140 for building this primitive capitol building, and, a few months later James Spencer appears as claimant for $50 on account of work done in rendering comfortable this same building.
Another log cabin was erected by William Hutton, who was, at that time, Commissioners' Clerk, as well as Clerk of the District Court. This cabin was occupied as a dry-goods store and grocery, especially the latter, which was stocked mostly with "corn juice." The store, not proving a profitable investment, was soon abandoned, and the same enterprising Clerk erected a two-story frame hotel, where he might entertain the Judge, jury and witnesses by night after recording their doings by day. This hotel is said to have been furnished with nothing save a few chairs; a sheet-iron parlor stove; the public table made of two rough boards laid lengthwise; and by way of night's lodging, a load or two of nice prairie hay, cut a few hours previously, and pitched into the upper windows.
Edinburg appears to have had no advantages over a dozen other places, save its central position. It manifested no signs of growth, and the people became rapidly dissatisfied. Other towns were growing up in the county, and it was but natural that the pioneers should prefer going to some settlement when they visited the county seat, instead of journeying out into the wilderness. No county officers made it his residence throughout the year. William Hutton, the Clerk, lived at Farm Creek. The Recorder was to be found at Fairview, and probate business received attention at Cascade. This state of affairs bred discontent. Nobody was satisfied, not even the county officers themselves. Finally, a petition was sent to the Legislature for relief, and a bill was passed in that body, providing that the Commissioners of Jones County should assemble and name two places to be voted upon by the citizens, deciding in that way their choice for county seat.
February 28, 1846, the Commissioners held a special meeting at the house of George G. Banghart for that purpose. By a species of playing into one another's hands, now commonly known as log-rolling, the Commissioners arranged matters to suit the individual preferences, and named the point now known as Newport, and a place adjoining Cascade, on the south side of the river. The latter was on the corner of the county, on the line, and between the two places. Newport received the majority of the votes. The result was viewed rather in the light of a joke. There was a solitary dwelling where Newport was to be laid out, the cabin of Adam Overacker.
May 11, 1846, the County Commissioners held their first meeting at the new seat of justice. The ground on which Newport was located was given to the county by Adam Overacker, being a ten-acre tract described as Lot 2, Section 33, Township 84, Range 3 west. Here the town was duly platted, and in July, at Sheriff's sale, twenty-eight lots were sold in behalf of the county. The proceeds of this sale aggregated $30.12, or an average of less than $11 per lot. The highest prize paid was $26 by Levi Cronkhite.
Preparations were made here for the erection of a log court house, and some of the timbers were placed on the ground, but nothing was ever done toward its completion. The Commissioners rented a room from Adam Overacker for their meeting, and made arrangements with him to supply rooms to accommodate the court at the proper season.
When Judge Wilson reached the spot, he found there was no place prepared for holding court, save in a room of the log shanty; saw no other houses in the vicinity, and nought in view save trees and waving prairie-grass, he got into his buggy and drove to his home in Dubuque. No term of court was held during the time the county seat was at Newport. The result of the election which fixed upon Newport was generally looked upon as a joke. It satisfied no one except Adam Overacker, and was much less suited to the needs of the county than Edinburg. As soon as possible, the assistance of the Legislature was again called in, and privilege was granted by that body to vote for a county seat, according to their own inclinations. If this election should not show a majority for any one point, a second election should be held, in which the two places having the greatest number of votes in the first election should be the only ones in the field.
On the first election, in the spring of 1847, five points were returned, viz: Lexington, Newport, Rome, Monticello and Scotch Grove. No votes were given to Edinburg. Newport and Lexington stood highest, and in the second contest, about two weeks later, a victory resulted in favor of Lexington, whose name was afterward changed by authority of Judge Wilson, of the District Court, to Anamosa.
After the election, the Commissioners met June 10, 1847, at Edinburg. They adjoined till 7 o'clock, June 11, when they immediately took a recess to meet at 1 o'clock in the afternoon at Lexington. We might, therefore, say that this town became the county seat between 7 A.M. and 1 P.M., June 11, 1847. The house of G. H. Ford was temporarily secured for court purposes and the transaction of county business.
Lexington had been surveyed by R. J. Cleveland, June 18, 1846, with Mahan & Crockwell as proprietors. It was replatted, with provision for a public square, in June, 1847, by H. Mahan, John D. Crockwell and G. H. Ford, who, in accordance with a previous pledge, donated to the county of Jones fifty lots of the new town and a public square. Of these lots, forty-eight were sold at the July term of the Commissioners' Board, realizing to the county $725.
The contract for building a two-story frame court house was let to G. H. Ford at $800. This building was 30x40 feet, and could not have been built at so low a price had it not been that most of the necessary material was already donated to the county. This court house was first occupied January 3, 1848.
Various attempts have been made in later years to remove the county seat from Anamosa to a more central locality.
In the vote of April 6, 1857, a contest was waged between Anamosa and Madison, with a result of 1,024 to 717 in favor of the former.
In the following year, an attempt to remove the seat of justice to the northeast quarter of Section 1, Jackson Township, failed of a majority by 33 votes. The ballot stood 1,278 to 1,245.
In October, 1874, the people were called upon to decide between Anamosa and Center Junction. The contest was a bitter one, and not without some fear on the part of the friends of Anamosa. The latter, however, were successful by a vote of 1,993 to 1,592.
The court house above mentioned, as built by G. H. Ford in 1847, was used by the county until 1864. Some brick offices had also been erected, which stood, with the court house, down in the part known as the "old town" of Anamosa. Though the old building did good service for the county for some eighteen years, yet it was not free from the gnawings of the "tooth of time," and we find, in the midwinter meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the following resolutions offered:

WHEREAS, H. C. Metcalf has generously offered to Jones County suitable rooms for county offices and a commodious hall in which to hold the District Court, for the term of two years free of rent, with the privilege of using the same three years longer for such rent as the Board of Supervisors may see fit to allow, and
WHEREAS, The ruinous and dilapidated condition of the building known as the Jones County Court House, now only renders it a fit habitation for bats and owls, and as we, the representatives of Jones County, do not desire longer to dispute possession with a class of tenants whose claims are vastly superior to ours, therefore
Reso'ved, That this Board accept said proposition and order a removal of the public records as soon as said Metcalf shall make to the county a lease of the aforesaid rooms, in accordance with the conditions above stated.

This resolution was finally adopted on the sixth day of the term, January, 1864. The old Court House was sold at auction November 15, 1864, to E. B. Alderman for $250, and was moved up town.
The rooms rented of Mr. Metcalf were occupied free of rent for two years, when they were leased at the rate of $250 per year. The county offices remained here until the fall of 1871, when they were removed to their present location in Shaw's new block. The court room was removed to Lehmkuhl's Block in January, 1871, the hall in Metcalf's building being inadequate to needs of the county. For three years, the county rented the rooms occupied by the county. During the time of the contest for the county seat between Center Junction and Anamosa, the latter city in its corporate capacity appropriated $3,000 and private citizens subscribed $2,000 more, with which amount an $1,000 additional pledged, the entire second floor of Shaw's Block and the Auditor's office on the first floor were purchased and conveyed to the county of Jones, to belong to said county so long as they were occupied for county and court purposed. In the event that the county seat is removed from Anamosa, these rooms are to revert to their former owners, the city and citizens of Anamosa.

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