Jefferson County is named after the framer of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.
The locating commissioners located the county seat of Jefferson County at Fairfield on March 4, 1838. There was some minor disappointment that it was not located at Lockridge, but after time passed, Fairfield was seen as a wise choice.
The first lots of Fairfield were sold to provide funds for public buildings. The first of these buildings was the courthouse. Built in 1839, it was the first courthouse built in Iowa that was not a log cabin or a temporary structure. This building cost $725, plus extras and painting. By 1845 this building was considered inadequate for county use. It was sold by the county and subsequently used as a blacksmith shop.
Approval for the second courthouse came in an election held August 1846. This stone and brick structure was completed in January 1851 and was being used by the county in May of that same year. Although this building was only 22 years old, a grand jury deemed it unfit for county use. Several attempts to construct a new courthouse failed in elections. It was not until 1890 that the construction of a new courthouse was approved.
This third, and present, courthouse was officially dedicated on January 20, 1893. The total cost of the 68-foot x 88-foot stone and brick structure was $73,630. When this building was first completed, it was heated by steam and contained gas lighting.
Jefferson County claims the first Carnegie Library, the first malleable iron foundry, and the first golf club located west of the Mississippi. In addition, Fairfield enjoys the distinction of hosting the first Iowa State Fair in 1854.
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