Worth County

Worth County

Major General William Jenkins Worth, a prominent officer in the Black Hawk and Mexican Wars, is the namesake of Worth County.

Since the beginning of the county, there has been debate over the location of the county seat. The first two rivals were Northwood and Bristol. Their battle became so heated that at one time there was a movement to divide the county.

Originally the thriving settlement of Bristol was the county seat, but the community of Northwood was threatening. Bristol tried to relocate the boundaries of the county, in order to put itself nearer the center of the county. This was an attempt to solidify its position as the county seat. The attempt failed, because after much litigation and contention, Northwood became the county seat in 1863. Following this, the settlement of Bristol, once the largest in the county, vanished.

The first county courthouse at Northwood was a small stone structure that was rented to the county for $3 per month. In 1865 the Board of Supervisors authorized the construction of a courthouse. Total cost of the two-story building was $1,000.

Another county seat battle occurred in 1879. This time the parties were Northwood and Kensett. Northwood remained the county seat after winning the election, 709 to 644. Following this the county built its third courthouse. Local citizens pledged $5,000 toward the courthouse — only $4,594 was used, and land was donated by the county.

This brick building was used until 1893, when it was used as a high school, library, and city hall. Today it stands as the Worth County Historical Museum.

The current courthouse was completed in 1893. The original tower was removed, and the entire courthouse was remodeled in 1938. A Civil War cannon sits on the courthouse grounds as a monument to all veterans.

An addition was added to the courthouse in 1990, which included offices for the sheriff’s department, a new jail, offices for the clerk of court, and a magistrate courtroom/conference room.

Source: Kay Clark, Worth County Auditor

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