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Though probably not the first bridge erected in the county, yet the first one of sufficient importance to make record of the contract, was the bridge erected across English Creek near the house of Jacob Pifer. The contract was as follows:
"January 5, 1855: For the sum of $260, to be a wooden superstructure and bolted with irons; allotted to Isaac Gaston and to be built according to plans now in county judge's office. Said Isaac Gaston makes application for $50, to purchase irons and timber, which sum is allowed by the county judge and ordered that a warrant be issued to Isaac Gaston out of the county fund.
"JOSEPH BROBST, County Judge."
This order will strike the reader as being a stauge commingling of contract, presentation of bill, granting of bill and issuance of warrant.
On the seventh day of Februray, 1855, Judge Brobst seems to have heard an application for a writ of habeas corpus, the first one on record before that court. It was entitled the case of:
The plaintiffs severally made oath that they were wrongfully restrained of their liberty by the sheriff of said county on pretense of the crime of committing an assault upon Samuel H. Black with intent to commit murder. The writ was issued and the case heard on the same day. The plaintiffs were required to enter into recognizance to appear before the District Court. Bonds were fixed for each, aggregating the sum of three hundred and fifty dollars, and parties remanded into care of sheriff for safe keeping.
Among his other duties it devolved upon the county judge to find a man who would consent to act as agent for the purchase and sale of intoxicating liquors so that people in the various communities might be able to procure that particular article for medical, mechanical and sacramental purposes. It was early found to be necessary to use alcohol in the manufacture of many articles of home comfort and that well-known specific, vulgarly called whisky, was indispensible in case of snake bites, hence there were found persons who were prevailed upon to act as agents for the purchase and sale of this renowned medical and mechanical commodity. The county judge had an official form by which he certified to the fact that such an agent had been found willing to devote a portion of his time for the good of the afflicted and snake-bitten public. The following is a copy of said official form:
"AUGUST 9, 1855.
"On the thirtieth day of June, 1855, came J. J. Cole, a resident of Knoxville, Marion county, Iowa, and made application to the county judge aforesaid to be appointed agent for the purchase and sale of intoxicating liquors for medical, mechanical and sacramental purposes for the said county, in the town of Knoxville, in said county of Marion. Upon filing
bond in the penal sum of one thousand dollars, with R. S. Patterson and J. R. Duncan as sureties, which was approved by the county judge, and entering into an agreement whereupon he agrees to receive as agent aforesaid, the sum of twenty-five per cent on cost of all liquors sold by him for the said medical, mechanical and sacramental purposes, as a salary as said agent, and also to furnish the necessary sum for the purchasing of said liquors necessary for the people aforesaid, which sum he shall retain out of the sum received for liquors sold by him as aforesaid. Whereupon a certificate was issued bearing date of June 30, 1855, authorizing the said J. J. Cole to act as agent for the purchase and sale of intoxicating liquors for the said medical, mechanical and sacramental purposes for the said county aforesaid, from the first day of July, 1855, until May 1, 1856, and that the same be sold in the said town of Knoxville."
The last official act of Judge Brobst was the issuing of a marriage certificate to Jeremiah Heavlin and Martha Jane Scott. The license was dated August 15, 1855.
Judge Brobst was succeeded by Judge F. M. Frush, whose first official act bears date of August 15, 1855. The act referred to was the approval of the official bond of Jonathan Jones, the sheriff elect.
On September 10, 1855, Judge Frush makes a record of the official_canvass of a vote cast at a special election held in the town of Pella. From this record we learn that there were eighty-three votes cast, and the following officers were elected: mayor, William J. Ellis; marshal, A. Stautenburg; recorder, E. Boekenoogen; treasurer, I. Overkamp. Aldermen, J. Berkhout, O. McDowell, M. A. Clark.
The election of which this is a record was probably the first election held in Pella after the incorporation of the town.
On the 21st day of April, 1856, the county judge makes a record of certain regulations which were to govern the various township assessors in their valuation of real estate and personal property. We reproduce the record as it will be interesting to compare values at the present time with what they were a quarter of a century ago:
During the first year of Judge Frush's incumbency, considerable money was expended in the erection of bridges, which the county had long been seriously in need of. Two of these bridges were of special importance; one over South Cedar, the building of which was awarded to W. F. Schee, and
the other over Coal Creek, which was built by Henry Shoemaker and Miles Jordan. Many bridges of greater dimensions are now built annually, but these being among the first deserve to be noticed.
The following record will show how the public square became fenced: "In pursuance of an order made by the county court on the 5th day of June, 1854, which order appears to have been made at the request of several citizens of Knoxville by petition that the public square should be fenced, and said order never having been carried out, as said public square is still unfenced, and the court at this time is satisfied that a large portion of the citizens of this said town desire that the said square should now be fenced, and also satisfied from the large number of lots sold, that justice to said citizens demands said work be now done, therefore, on the day of November, 1855, notices were given by posting in writing in three public places in said town that bids or proposals would be received at this office up to four o'clock P. M. of the 12th day of November, 1855, for furnishing the material and completing said work, and C. J. Brobst furnishing the lowest and best proposal, which was $232 for the material and work, entered into an agreement to complete said work within forty days in manner according to said agreement and appended specification, and gave bonds and security for his true performance of the said work, which article and agreement and bond have been filed in this office on this 13th day of November, 1855. "F. M. FRUSH, "County Judge."
The fence to which this order refers was the first one erected around the public square, but is not the one which is now there. At the time it was erected there was no building on the square, and when the new court-house was erected, the old fence was replaced by a new one.
Owing to the fact that our synopsis of the transactions of the county judge has already became more extended than the importance of the subject may seem to warrant, we pass over a large portion of the record made by Judge Frush. We have already devoted considerable space to this matter as we consider that the record of the county judge from 1851 to 1861, contains a very important part of the official history of the county. Before leaving this subject, however, we shall reproduce an order made by Judge Frush in July, 1858, with reference to the sale of intoxicating liquors. It has already been shown that in 1855 the plan was to appoint an agent, who, under certain restrictions, was allowed to handle liquors ostensibly acting for the county. By the following order it will be seen that another plan was resorted to three years afterward:
"JULY 1, 1858.
"Now on this day comes a certificate of twenty citizens of Knoxville representing H. J. Scoles to be a man of good moral character and a citizen of Marion County, State of Iowa; and also presented by H. J. Scoles came his bond in the penal sum of one thousand dollars, signed by S. B. Scoles, James D. Wright, H. C. Whitney and John B. Hamilton, conditioned that said H. J. Scoles will comply with an act supplementary and amendatory to an act entitied an act for the suppression of intemperance, approved January 22, 1855,' which said suppleinentary or amendatory act was approved January 28, 1858.. Said bond and securities thereunto being approved by the county judge, it is considered that said H. J. Scoles has complied with the requirements of the law and that the said H. J. Scoles is
therefore authorized fully to proceed to buy and sell intoxicating liquors for mechanical, medical, culinary and sacramental purposes, in accordance with the requirements of an act supplementary and amendatory to an act entitled an act for the suppression of intemperance, approved January 22, 1855,' which supplementary and amendatory act was approved January 28, 1858.
"F. M. FRUSH,
Judge Frush continued in office till January 1, 1861, when the office, as executive head of county affairs, was abolished, and in its stead was substituted a board of fifteen, one from each township, known as a board of supervisors. The office of county judge, shorn of much of its dignity and circumscribed in authority continued till 1868, when it was abolished altogether.
THE TOWNSHIP SYSTEM.
According to an act previously passed by the State Legislature a board of supervisors was constituted in 1860, which board was to consist of one member from each civil township. The first members of this board were elected at the regular election in November, 1860, and the supervisors elect took their seats and assumed the duties of their office on January 1st, 1861. The following are the names of the first members of this board with the name of the township from which each was elected: Joseph Brobst, Knoxville; Wm. P. Cowman, Perry; D. F. Smith, Franklin; H. R. Clingman, Dallas; Wm. Blain, Union; Geo. W. Martin, Polk; Daniel Sherwood, Indiana; John F. Baldwin, Summit, Edwin Baker, Red Rock; Joseph Clark, Clay; J. B. Davis, Liberty; E. F. Grafe, Lake Prairie; Bromfield Long, Washington; J. A. Logan, Swan; J. Thornburg, Pleasant Grove.
The first business of the board was to regulate the terms of office for each member, as the law provided that half of them should serve for one year and the other half for two years. This matter was determined by lot and resulted as follows:
Two years: Brobst, Blain, Davis, Grafe, Martin, Baker and Sherwood. One year: Baldwin, Clark, Clingman, Long, Smith, Thornburg, Logan, and Cowman.
The clerk of the District Court was ex officio clerk of the board of supervisors, and Daniel Sherwood was, on motion of Mr. Brobst, elected president of the board.
This township system lasted ten years, and these ten years were probably the most critical period in the county's history. During this period were the war times when quotas had to be filled up and the helpless families of volunteers looked after; during this period many important roads were laid out and expensive bridges erected; during this period, also, the county farm was purchased and a county poor-house erected. Were it possible to give a full synopsis of the doings of this board, it would appear that some of their acts are proper subjects of condemnation, but on the whole the affairs of the county were judiciously and economically administered. The chief objection to the township system was that the board was too cumbersome, it being a minature legislature within itself. Owing to the number in the board it was the more difficult to bring about needed and useful reforms, and little jobs were the more readily put up, seeing that
the facilities for covering them up and dividing the responsibility were the more ample. Then again it was too expensive to make the compensation enough to induce men of well known ability to accept a place, and the small salary which was paid secured the services of men of meager attainments and small ability.
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.
The board of township supervisors was legislated out of existence in 1870, and the present system of a board of three county supervisors substituted in its stead. The members of the first board were elected at the regular election in October, 1870. The persons chosen at that time for this position were: S. Y. Gose, for one year; S. L. Collins, for two years; William Blain, for three years.
The first meeting of the board was held in January, 1871, beginning on the first Monday of that month.
According to the act constituting this board, the county auditor became ex officio clerk; Mr. Gose was elected chairman.
This board has had the executive control of county affairs now for nearly ten years and experience goes to prove that the arrangement is undoubtedly the best that can be devised. The body is not too large to be cumbersome, it is small enough to act promptly, and the responsibility of vicious acts can more readily be definitely located. The compensation, while not large, is sufficient to recompense the best of business men for the small portion of their time devoted to the discharge of the duties of the office, and the office is sufficiently honorable and dignified to insure the acceptance of the best men in the county should the people be careful to call upon such, which unfortunately is not always the case.
The present system is essentially the same as the old board of county commissioners, and thus with the management of county affairs it may be said that history repeats itself. First, there was the board of three county commissioners; then the county judge system; then the township system; and now again the board of three, essentially the same as the first, except in name. The ways of the modern legislator are past finding out, but in all probability the present system will continue for some time to
THE FIRST COURT-HOUSE.
The fact has already been stated that the first meeting of the county commissioners was held in a cabin which belonged to the claim of Mr. Conrey, located on the quarter section which the locating commissioners selected as the county seat. When the Honorable District Court of the Second Iowa judicial district sat in March, 1846, it had no better place of sitting than that used by the commissioners. In January preceding, however, the commissioners had already taken measures for the erection of a court-house They authorized their clerk, Lysander W. Babbitt, to advertise for proposals for the erection of a court-house, which was to be twentyfour feet wide, thirty feet long and two stories high, to be completed by the 20th of May following. In response to this advertisement for bids came a bid from Lewis M. Pearce, who agreed to erect the building for the sum of four hundred and fifty dollars. On the 29th of January the bid of Mr. Pearce was accepted by the commissioners and the work was immediately begun.