Keokuk County

Keokuk County

Keokuk County is named for the famous Sac Indian chief. The name means “Watchful Fox,” or “He Who Has Been Everywhere.”

In May of 1843 the entire county was opened up for settlement. Before this time the county was attached to Washington County. Like most counties, Keokuk County had its share of problems with the location of the county seat. Some wanted to locate the county seat in the geographical center of the county; others wanted to located it in the population center of the county. This argument was finally settled with the location of the county seat at Sigourney, the geographical center of the county, in 1844. The town was named after the author and poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney. She showed her appreciation by providing the trees which were planted on the courthouse grounds, and presenting 50 volumes to the town library.

Before the county seat was located at Sigourney, county business was completed at Western City (or Newton Village). County offices consisted of a log cabin and a log schoolhouse.

The first courthouse owned by the county was erected at Sigourney in 1845. The small building was made from hewn logs at a cost of $218. This building not only functioned as the courthouse but also the schoolhouse, church, jail, meeting room, and a hotel for travelers. This building served the county until the county seat was removed to Lancaster the following year.

Lancaster won the county seat by a vote in a special election held on August 7, 1846. The county seat was removed to Lancaster, because it was closer to the population center of the county. In 1848 a two-story frame courthouse was constructed at a cost of $699. It did not serve the county long, because the county seat was again moved back to Sigourney by election on April 12, 1856.

Even though Sigourney was declared the county seat, a courthouse was not built in Sigourney for quite some time. Residents thought it wise not to construct a building until the county seat question was answered. When the Iowa Supreme Court finally declared Sigourney the county seat, the third courthouse for Keokuk was begun.

This two-story brick courthouse was completed in 1858, at a cost of $17,200. Improvements and later additions were made at a cost $3,980.

In 1909 this building was leveled and replaced by the existing courthouse. Construction began with the laying of the cornerstone on June 8, 1909 and ended with a dedication ceremony on September 19, 1910. Architects for the building were Wetherell and Gage. It was constructed by J. L. Simmons.

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Hedrick Keota Keswick Kinross
Martinsburg Ollie Richland Sigourney
South English Thornburg Webster What Cheer