Clarke County was originally part of Des Moines County and was established as a separate county on January 13, 1846. It is named after James Clarke who was the Governor of Iowa Territory.
The first settlers of Clarke County were the Mormons, who were on their way to Salt Lake City, Utah. None of them stayed for a long period of time; it was just a stopover for them on the Mormon Trail.
During the session of the Legislature in 1850-1851, a commission consisting of two men and one women was appointed to locate a county seat for Clarke County. In the late summer of 1851 they chose an area and named it Osceola, after a Seminole Indian Chief. George Howe had already claimed the area intended for Osceola, however. It was part of his farmland. He later sold the land to the county for $100.
Although the county had established a county seat, the first courthouse was not completed until 1854. It was contracted for $1,000 but the completed price was $1,600. It was abandoned on January 1, 1883. A second courthouse was built on the same site. It was a red brick structure, complete with a clock tower.
This building was torn down in the fall of 1955 and the construction of a new and modern looking courthouse began in the winter of the same year. The cornerstone was laid in August 1956 and the building was ready for occupation in November 1956. Bonds were approved to cover the $275,000 cost.
Population of Clarke County went from 548 in 1851 to 12,440 in 1900 to 8,287 in 1990. Larger farms have replaced the many small farms; and many residential houses have been torn down, thus reducing the rural population. Manufacturing is now a major livelihood for many families in Clarke County.
Some significant dates and events in Clarke County history:
1858 – Stagecoaches brought DAILY mail to Osceola
1864 – 500 volunteers from the county took part in the Civil War
1884 – County has 72,952 apple trees, 103 school buildings, 3,597 students, 189 teachers, average farm is 145 acres.
1911 – Bluegrass Trail (Highway 34) crosses the county
1907 – Brick paving of streets in Osceola completed
1926 – Concrete replaces brick-paved streets
1953 – Clarke County Hospital opens in Osceola
Partial source: Enid Kendall, Clarke County Recorder