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Marion County, Iowa

The Marion County Courthouse is located at 214 E Main Street, Knoxville, IA 50138.

Marion County Neighborhoods

Porter-Rhynsburger House

Photo: Porter-Rhynsburger House, circa 1855, located at 514 Broadway Street, Pella. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Photographed by User: Boscophotos (own work), 2016, [cc-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed November, 2021.


Soon after the passage of the act of June 28, 1834, annexing Iowa to the Territory of Michigan, the authorities of that territory began the preliminary work of establishing civil government in the country west of the Mississippi River. On September 6, 1834, the governor of Michigan approved an act of the Territorial Legislature creating two new counties in what is now the State of Iowa. The dividing line between these two counties began at the lower end of Rock Island and ran due west. All north of that line was designated as Dubuque County and all south of it as the County of Des Moines. In the latter, Burlington and Fort Madison were designated as the voting places, but as at that time the population did not extend very far west from the Mississippi the results of the first election are not of particular interest to the people of Marion County, which was then unpeopled by civilized man.

When the Territory of Wisconsin was erected by Congress, by an act approved on April 20, 1836, Iowa was made a part of that territory, and on December 7, 1836, Henry Dodge, governor of Wisconsin, approved an act dividing Des Moines County into the counties of Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Louisa, Muscatine and Cook (now Scott). Two years later Washington County was organized and given jurisdiction over all the unorganized territory lying west of it. In 1843 several election precinct were defined by the authorities of that county, and one of these precincts embraced a large part of the present County of Marion. It was known as "Lake Prairie Precinct" and the first election was held on Lake Prairie on the first Monday in October, 1843.

Keokuk and Mahaska counties were organized in 1844 and the latter was given jurisdiction over all the territory lying to the north and west, including the present counties of Jasper, Marion, Warren and Polk. At an election held on the first Monday in April, 1844, Stephen Drouilard, who lived on the White Breast Prairie, was elected one of the county commissioners of Mahaska County.

In the spring of 1845 a meeting was called at the house of Nathan Bass, on Lake Prairie, for the purpose of taking steps to secure a separate county organization. Donnel says: "The cabin at which this meeting was held stood on the north bank of the Des Moines River, in the northwest corner of section 19, township 76, range 18, now Lake Prairie Township. It has long since disappeared, and repeated freshets have washed away the bank for several rods inland from where it stood. We are thus particular, because it may interest the reader to be able to find upon the map, or know when he passes it, a place rendered in some degree memorable by the scene of the first political movement in the county looking to its distinct organization."

Those present at the meeting at Mr. Bass' cabin were: George Gillaspy, Simon Drouilard, John W. Alley, Isaac N. Crum, Lysander W. Babbitt, Reuben Mathews, Homer Mathews, Nathan Bass, Levi Bainbridge, Joseph Drouilard, John Williams, David T. Durham, and perhaps a few others whose names have been lost. Simon Drouilard was chosen to preside and John W. Alley was elected secretary. The opinion regarding the advisability of asking for a separate county organization was unanimous and the meeting then proceeded to the selection of a name. Reuben Mathews suggested "Center," because of the central location of the county; Lysander W. Babbitt proposed "Pulaski," and Simon Drouilard offered "Nebraska." Levi Bainbridge then addressed the meeting and pointed out the doubtful custom of naming counties after Indian chiefs or tribes, or noted foreigners, when this country had so many illustrious men whose names ought to be first considered worthy of perpetuation. He pictured in glowing language the heroism of Francis Marion, one of the distinguished generals of the Revolution, and concluded his remarks by moving that the name of "Marion" be adopted. This motion was promptly seconded and the name was adopted by a unanimous vote.

Joseph Drouilard was then selected as a candidate for organizing sheriff and a petition to the Legislature was prepared, asking for the organization of a new county to be know as Marion. The petition was circulated and signed by a large number of the settlers, after which it was sent to the Legislature. In response to this petition a bill was introduced providing for the creation of a new county, which passed the council on May 5, 1845, by a vote of four to eight. Subsequently it passed the house and on June 10, 1845, was approved by Governor Chambers.

† John W. Wright and W. A. Young, History of Marion County Iowa and Its People, 1915, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago.


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