Warren County was named in honor of General Joseph Warren, who died on June 17, 1775 at the Battle of Breed’s Hill in the Revolutionary War.
The first county elections were held on January 1, 1849. The organizing sheriff and commissioners were appointed at this election. The commissioners were put in charge of locating a county seat for the newly-formed county.
In the summer of 1849 the commissioners set out to locate the center of the county. When they located the center it was found to be in the river bottoms, so they walked on, looking for level ground. They found level ground at the present-day intersection of Iowa Highway 92 and U. S. Highway 65-69. The owner of this land, who resided in Indiana, agreed to sell 80 acres at $10 per acre to the county.
There are many different stories floating around about the origin of the county seat name. One story goes that, after the county seat was selected, the commissioners sat down to lunch. One of the commissioners had his lunch wrapped in a copy of the New York Sun , and, after he was finished, he began to read the paper. One article was about the unloading of camels in the Texas town of Indianola. The name Indianola appealed to the commissioners, and they decided to name the new county seat after the Texas town.
Until recent years that story was accepted. In 1941 the owner-editor of the Record-Herald and Indianola Tribune, Don L. Berry was in Texas. He decided to visit the namesake of Indianola to see what it looked like. The town had nearly faded into extinction. After doing some research, Berry found that the camels did not land at Indianola, Texas until seven years after Indianola, Iowa was all ready named. The article that was about Indianola, Texas was about an outbreak of cholera.
There are currently 17 Indianolas in the United States, of which the one in Iowa is the largest.
The first courthouse was a two-story log cabin that doubled as a church and school. This building was abandoned in 1868. A new courthouse was approved in an election in 1865. Final cost of this building was estimated between $65,000 to $89,000 but the contractor was allowed to collect only $50,211.45 — the original contract price.
This courthouse was built of stone and bricks with a foundation of sandstone. It was used from 1868 to 1938, when it was torn down.
There were several attempts to replace this building, but all failed. It was not until the Public Works Administration offered $65,250 towards the construction of a new courthouse that anything was done. On August 10, 1938 a proposal to issue $80,000 in bonds for the erection of a new courthouse, plus the federal grant, was approved.
The cornerstone of the third and present building was laid on December 3, 1938; it was officially dedicated on August 24, 1939. The 65-foot x 113-foot building is constructed of brick and Bedford stone. A large crowd of around 18,000 was on hand to celebrate the completion of the building.
In 1988 an addition to the courthouse was built to improve and enlarge the jail and add more office space.
Source: Judith K. Lathrop, Warren County Recorder