Wayne County

Wayne County

Wayne County was established on January 13, 1846 and was formally organized on February 13, 1851. The county is named after General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, of the Revolutionary War.

Wayne County is unusual in that it is one of the few Iowa counties to have had only one county seat, Corydon. Corydon has had more than one name however. Originally called Springfield, the name Corydon was chosen by County Judge Seth Anderson, who won the right to name the town in a poker game. He named it after his hometown of Corydon, Indiana.

The first “courthouse” was built in 1852. It was a hastily built log cabin and was used even before it was completed. The floor was laid down loosely, the walls were not chinked and half of the roof was unfinished. The judge’s desk was an old keg, and the jury would go to the slough or ravine to decide cases. This building was used for four years. Then, in 1856, William F. Lancaster and John Davis built a small building to use as a courthouse at a cost of $600. When this building was abandoned by the county in 1871, the business of the county was conducted in various downtown buildings.

Several attempts were made to vote bonds for a new courthouse between 1869 and 1889, but all failed. Around this time the town of Allerton became a contender for the county seat. Finally, with the help of people favorable to Corydon, a subscription was started in 1890 to build a new courthouse. Around $19,000 was raised, and construction began on the new courthouse in 1891. The contractors were E. A. Rea and Alex Mardis. The courthouse was made of red brick that was made and burned at Corydon.

After nearly 73 years of service, the courthouse was declared unsafe by a grand jury. A $450,000 bond issue was approved in September of 1962 by the voters in a special election for a new courthouse. The new courthouse was designed by the architects Frankhiser and Hutchens and was built by Grabau Construction. A ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone was held on August 15, 1964, and the new courthouse was finished later that same year. It is a three-story, modern looking facility and lies just east of the previous one.

Source: Burton, Warren, History Of Wayne County, Iowa, 1956

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