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1870, 24,436; 1873, 24,272; 1875, 24,066; 1880, 25,122. From this it will be seen that there has been one period, and only one, in the past history of the county in which there was a decrease in the population; that period was during the five years between 1870 and 1875. The fact seems strange and almost unaccountable that during the war-period when many of the most healthy and vigorons of her sons died of disease or wounds in battle, Marion county still grew in population from 16,813 in 1860 to 18,719 in 1865.
Upon comparing Marion county with its neighbors we find the following facts of interest: Mahaska county was well settled before Marion made much pretensions of population. In 1854 the latter passed the former in the ascending scale of prosperity and showed a population of 9,315 to 9,093 in Mahaska. Having once passed her eastern neighbor in the race, Marion has kept ahead.
In 1846 the population of Marion and Polk counties lacked but about fifty of being the same, the former being a little ahead. In 1849 Polk passed Marion, it then having 4,214 to 3,797 in Marion. The next year Marion again took her place in advance of Polk, and in 1851 again fell bebind. In 1852 Polk again fell behind Marion and did not again overtake her until 1867, when she again passed her rival neighbor and bids fair to permanently hold the place which she has fairly won in the race.
This place will probably be as appropriate for a comparison of the townships of the county as any. We give the population of the townships in 1875 and in 1880 in parallel columns so that the comparisons may be the more readily made. The cities of Knoxville and Pella are given separately from the townships in which they are situated.
It will be seen from the foregoing that during the past five years eight townships, Clay, Dallas, Franklin, Knoxville, Liberty, Pleasant Grove, Swan and Union have increased in population while the others have decreased. For reasons easily understood the greatest increase has been in
Knoxville and Pleasant Grove townships, while the greatest loss has been in Lake Prairie and Summit. This change is due to the fact that trade, which for many years was turned from its natural channels, has been brought back by the completion of railways.
If we had the space to give a synopsis of the development of the material resources we would find that in this respect the county has fully kept pace with the steady increase of population. We should also find by comparisons with other counties that Marion has kept well along in the front ranks of progress. The history of the county from the very first shows a steady career of thriving and prosperous growth. The following table of events shows the general land-marks of the country's growth and history to the present time:
First settlement east of the Red Rock line, 1843.
Knoxville chosen as county seat, August 25, 1845.
First white child born, Frances Ruple, July 23, 1843.
First term of court, March 15, 1846.
First land entered, 1847.
First land transfer, Dec. 3, 1847.
First mill erected, 1846.
First mail received at Knoxville, July, 1846.
Court-house erected, 1858.
First railroad in the county, 1865.
First newspaper, 1855.
First railroad to Knoxville, 1875.
This brief table represents a large amount of history and will be instructive to those who ponder it fittingly.
Speaking generally the growth of the county has been steady and continuous, although there have of course been times of ebb and flow. The first period of the county's growth was one of much hardship and priva
The California emigration, however, brought golden days to the county and prosperity continued at high tide until the panic a few years before the
These were evil days for Marion county as there was very general discontent and many business men failed. A slow recovery followed and introduced the war-period. From the close of the war up to 1873, the county was again in a prosperous condition. The county did not suffer in this directly so much as indirectly, in the general derangement of business. But the experience was much the same as that in the former period of high prices and flourishing times. Property began to depreciate and became unsalable, and general discontent spread among the people. There has been nothing peculiar in this; the experience of the people of Marion county has been very much the same as that with the people of other counties and States. At the present time the county is fairly started again on a career of prosperity.
So in Marion county good times have followed close upon evil times and vice versa all through the period of its growth. It would seem that the old sage's thought would be a good thing to keep ever in mind, both in pros
perity and distress: "Even this shall pass away." Such a lesson is taught by the experience of the county from the time of its organization till the present.
Having thus definitely, and as fully as the records permit, noted the early settlements, and described the hardships of the pioneer and the development of the county during its early stages, we now come to the matter of county organization.
ORGANIZATION OF THE COUNTY.
Origin of County and Township Organization-Condition of Territory Before OrganizationLegislative Act Organizing Marion County-Appointment of Commissioners to Locate Seat of Justice-First Election-Proceedings of County Commissioners-License-FerriesRoads--Election Precincts-County Judge System-Township System-Board of Supervisors-First Court-house--Second Court-house--Jail-Poor-farm-Des Moines River
Ir was not long after the Indians departed and the country was thrown open for settlement that the necessity of county organization in the interests of good government, good roads and the management of other local af fairs became apparent. The country was thrown open for settlement in October, 1845, and during the fall of the same year steps were taken for the organization. During the previous winter the necessary legislation_was procured in the Territorial General Assembly then in session at Iowa City.
Before proceeding to speak of these events in detail it will be proper to state some facts bearing upon the subject of county and township organization in general.
With regard to the origin of dividing individual States into county and township organizations, which, in an important measure, should have the power and opportunity of transacting their own business and governing themselves, under the approval of, and subject to, the State and general government of which they formed a part, we quote from Elijah M. Haines, who is considered good authority on the subject.
In his "Laws of Illinois Relative to Township Organizations," he
"The county system originated with Virginia, whose early settlers soon became large landed proprietors, aristocratic in feeling, living apart in almost baronial magnificence on their own estates, and owning the laboring part of the population. Thus the materials for a town were not at hand, the voters being thinly distributed over a great area.
"The county organization, where a few influential men managed the whole business of the community, retaining their places almost at their pleasure, scarcely responsible at all, except in name, and permitted to conduct the county concerns as their ideas or wishes might direct, was moreover consonant with their recollections or traditions of the judicial and social dignities of the landed aristocracy of England, in descent from whom the Virginia gentleman felt so much pride. In 1834 eight counties were organized in Virginia, and the system, extending throughout the State, spread into all the Southern States, and some of the Northern States; unless we except
the nearly similar division into 'districts' in South Carolina, and that into 'parishes' in Louisiana, from the French laws.
"Illinois, which, with its vast additional territory, became a county of Virginia, on its conquest by General George Rogers Clark, retained the county organization, which was formerly extended over the State by the constitution of 1818, and continued in exclusive use until the constitution of 1848.
"Under this system, as in other States adopting it, most local business was transacted by those commissioners in each county who constituted a county court, with quarterly sessions.
"During the period ending with the constitution of 1847, a large portion of the State had become filled up with a population of New England birth or character, daily growing more and more compact and dissatisfied with the comparatively arbitrary and inefficient county system. It was maintained by the people that the heavily populated districts would always control the election of the commissioners to the disadvantage of the more thinly populated sections-in short, that under that system 'equal and exact justice' to all parts of the county could not be secured.
"The township system had its origin in Massachusetts, and dates back to 1635.
"The first legal enactment concerning this system provided that, whereas, 'particular townships have many things which concern only themselves, and the ordering of their own affairs, and disposing of business in their own town,' therefore, the freeman of every township, or a majority part of them shall only have power to dispose of their own lands and woods with all the appurtences of said town, to grant lots, and to make such order as may concern the well-ordering of their own towns not repugnant to the laws and orders established by the general court.'
"They might also (says Mr. Haines) impose fines of not more than twenty shillings, and 'choose their own particular officers, as constables, surveyors for the highways and the like."
"Evidently this enactment relieved the general court of a mass of municipal details, without any danger to the power of that body in controlling general measures of public policy.
Probably also a demand from the freemen of the towns was felt for the control of their own home concerns.
"The New England colonies were first governed by 'general court,' or legislature, composed of a governor and a small council, which court consisted of the most influential inhabitants, and possessed and exercised both legislative and judicial powers, which were limited only by the wisdom of the holders.
"They made laws, ordered their execution by officers, tried and decided civil and criminal causes, enacted all manner of municipal regulations, and, in fact, did all the public business of the colony.
"Similar provisions for the incorporation of towns were made in the first constitution of Connecticut, adopted in 1639; and the plan of township organization, as experience proved its remarkable economy, efficiency and adaptation to the requirements of a free and intelligent people, became universal throughout New England, and went westward with the emigrante from New England into New York, Ohio, and other Western States."
Thus we find that the valuable system of county, township and town organizations had been thoroughly tried and proven long before there was
need of adopting it in Iowa, or any of the broad region west of the Mississippi River. But as the new country soon began to be opened, and as Eastern people continued to move westward across the mighty river, and form thick settlements along its western shore, the Territory, and State, and county, and township and town organizations soon followed in quick succession, and those different systems became more or less modified and improved, accordingly as deemed necessary by the experience and judgment and demands of the people, until they have arrived at the present stage of advancement and efficiency.
In the settlement of the Territory of Iowa, the Legislature began by organizing counties on the Mississippi River. As each new county was formed it was made to include, under legal jurisdiction all the country bordering west of it and required to grant to the occidental settlers electoral privileges and an equal share in the county government with those who properly lived in the geographical limits of the county.
The counties first organized along the eastern border of this State were given, for a short time, jurisdiction over the lands and settlements adjoining each on the west, until these different localities became sufficiently settled to support organizations of their own; and finally, at the first session of the Legislature, after the Indians sold out, the newly acquired territory, including all northwestern Iowa, was laid off into counties, provisions were made for their respective organizations when the proper time should arrive, and these were severally named.
Let us briefly trace out the formation of the counties in this latitude and the successive jurisdiction of counties.
The whole of Iowa east and south of Marion county was originally a part of Des Moines county. In 1834 or 1835 Louisa county was formed and it was given jurisdiction over all the unorganized country to the west. In 1838 Washington county was organized and all the unorganized territory west placed under the jurisdiction of Washington county. In 1844 Keokuk and Mahaska counties were organized and to the latter was given the jurisdiction of all the country north and west, including what now composes Jasper, Polk, Warren and Marion counties. When Marion county was organized in 1845 the territory west of it was attached to it. From the fact that Polk county had in the meantime been organized, the territory_composing the counties north and west of it were attached to Polk. From this it will be seen that when Marion county was first set, tled in 1843, the country was attached to Washington county and in case of litigation the settlers would have been compelled to have to resort to the courts of Washington county. In 1844 Marion county became a part of Mahaska county, and the people then living within the bounds of this county were for election, judicial and revenue purposes, attached to that county. In case of litigation the people of the county would have been compelled to attend the courts of Oskaloosa; the people of this county were included in the regular tax list of Mahaska county and in the election of officers for Mahaska county, the people of Marion voted just as if they had resided within the geographical limits of that county. It may be further remarked at this place that the commissioners of Mahaska county at that time established a voting precinct which included the whole of Marion county, and was called Lake Prairie precinct. This precinct was formed by the commissioners of Mahaska county at their meeting May 14, 1844. On the 7th day of January, Mahaska county was subdivded into