Hardin County is named after Colonel John J. Hardin. He was a prominent leader in the Black Hawk War and was killed in the Mexican War.
After the county was organized, a county seat was needed, and Judge William McKay of the Fifth Judicial District appointed two men to locate a suitable site. In late June, 1853 they selected a site and asked Mrs. S. R. Edington to name the town. She chose the name Eldora, after a baby she had just lost.
The county seat has been in Eldora since 1853, but this does not mean that it has been without conflict. The first contest was by the town of Steamboat Rock. An election was held in April 1856, and Steamboat Rock was defeated by a vote of 452 to 100.
After a small challenge by the village of Berlin in 1857, it was Point Pleasant’s turn. This election was held in April of 1858 and was hotly contested throughout the county. When it was over Point Pleasant was the winner, 540 to 521. The battle did not stop there, however. After the votes from Point Pleasant were counted, sealed, and delivered, someone broke into the contents and destroyed them. Point Pleasant blamed Eldora, and Eldora blamed Point Pleasant. Both went to court, and, after a 10-year battle, which included three Supreme Court decisions, Eldora emerged victorious.
The final battle came from Iowa Falls. It came at a time when Eldora was in the process of building the present courthouse. Iowa Falls citizens offered the county $32,000 towards a new courthouse if they built it in Iowa Falls. The citizens of Eldora then donated $40,000. When added to the $20,000 already appropriated, it made quite a sum towards a new courthouse.
Through four contests from 1856 to 1891 — not to mention all the legal battles that resulted from the competitions — Eldora has retained the designation as the seat of justice for Hardin County. And so it has remained for more than 139 years.
Hardin County has had three courthouses in its history. The first building was a small frame structure and was used until it burned in the mid-1850s.
The second courthouse was built with funds donated by the citizens of Eldora and $1,000 of county funds. It was a two-story frame building and was located on the present site of the county sheriff’s office.
The last and present courthouse was built in 1892 and was ready for operation on September 19, 1893. The contractor was J. F. Atkinson, and total cost was $75,000. In 1970-71 the courthouse underwent major remodeling, at a cost of $365,000. It was paid for by a bond issue. After it was completed the citizens, donated money for landscaping of the courthouse grounds.
The Hardin County courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It still stands as a monument to the pride which rural Iowans have always had in their communities.
Keith Van Patter, Hardin County Recorder