Cedar County, one of the original counties taken from Dubuque County, is named after the Red Cedar River that runs through it.
When the county was established the Territorial Legislature designated the town of Rochester as the county seat. It was chosen because of its proximity to stone and timber and it was the only area past Muscatine County that had established ferry service. It was also the only place in the county that had a name and people living in it.
The wheels of government in Cedar County first started turning April 12, 1838, in Rochester. This was the only site on the river above Muscatine County where regular ferry service had been established. At this time there were not more than 150 residents in the county.
Soon population increased and along with it the county seat battle. Several towns were in the running for the county seat; Centerville, Warsaw, Elizabeth, Antwerp, Rochester and Tipton were all visited by the county seat locating committee. After several weeks the committee chose Tipton. It is said that after the site was chosen many whiskey bottles were broken open.
On December 11, 1839, a bill passed both houses in the legislature to change the seat of justice for the county. The first county building in Tipton was a hewed log cabin that served as a courthouse and jail. In the summer of 1841 the county commissioners entered into a contract for the erection of a courthouse in the public square. Work did not progress very well, until a change of contractors took place. Commissioners accepted the courthouse from the new contractors in May 1846.
In 1858 the county began the construction of a “more suitable temple of justice.” The cut stone and red brick building was completed in the summer of 1859 at a cost of $45,000. The courthouse was topped by a cupola, which was later removed and replaced by a tower. In 1890 a $12,000 addition was completed. This addition housed fireproof vaults. In 1901 the county and city purchased a $985 clock for the tower. It was removed in 1949 because it was considered a nuisance and unsafe.
On November 3, 1964 voters approved a $595,000 bond issue to replace the courthouse. An additional $40,000 was approved for the building and equipping of the courthouse in 1966. The courthouse, which sits in the center of the square, was dedicated in the summer of 1968.
The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site was established at West Branch (in Cedar County) on August 12, 1965 to create an area where people could come to honor President Hoover and learn about the environment that helped to shape him. The site includes the birthplace cottage, blacksmith shop, Quaker meeting house, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and the graves of President and Mrs. Hoover.
In addition, the National Park Service has acquired the first schoolhouse in West Branch and several early homes. They’ve restored the exteriors to their 19th Century appearance.
Source: Beverly Fitch, Cedar County Recorder