Appanoose County was established by the Iowa Territorial Legislature on January 13, 1846. It is named for the chief of the Sac and the Fox Indian tribes who headed the peace party during the Black Hawk War. Appanoose means “A Chief When a Child.”
Appanoose County was one of the main coal mining areas in Iowa during the first third of the 20th Century.
On November 1, 1844 the Legislative Assembly of Iowa ordered Andrew Leach and William S. Whitaker to locate the county seat of Appanoose County. It was soon located and named Chaldea. It was then platted by the county surveyor. The name Chaldea was later changed to Senterville, in honor of Governor Senter, of Tennessee. The spelling was changed and the county seat of Appanoose is currently Centerville.
In the summer of 1847 it was decided that the county would erect a courthouse, but nothing was done at this time. On September 10, that same year, the dimensions and plans for the courthouse were decided upon and bids were sent out. The contract was given to James Jackson for $160 and the finish work was done by Jesse Wood for $119. The building was ready for occupation in April 1848. This courthouse was used until 1857.
The construction of a second courthouse began in 1860 and was completed in 1864. During this time the county business was conducted in local churches. This courthouse was destroyed by a fire on the Fourth of July. It seems that people were lighting fireworks from the courthouse cupola and throwing them into the air. One rocket evidently landed in the box with all the other fireworks and exploded. The fire destroyed the cupola and most of the second floor. The county continued to use the building but finally gave up in 1903.
The cornerstone for the third, and current courthouse was laid on May 21, 1903. It cost $90,600 to build and was designed by the architects Smith and Gage. The exterior walls are covered with Bedford stone veneer and the roof is all tile. The clock tower, which rises from the middle of the building, sets the building apart from all others. The courthouse is situated on a large town square and is the pride of Centerville and Appanoose County.