Lucas County was organized in January 1846. It was named in honor of Governor Lucas, first territorial governor of Iowa. The county lies within the Sac and Fox Indian Purchase by the treaties of 1837 and 1842, which included all the land in the territory west of the Iowa River known as the Black Hawk Purchase. Not until 1845 did the Indians finally surrender the land.
It is believed that the Mormons were the first non Native American settlers in the county, spending one winter at a place called Chariton Point, about one and on-half miles southeast of Chariton. The route they took has since been known as the “Morman Trail.”
Under the act of the Second Assembly of the State of Iowa “An Act to Organize Lucas County” was approved. Three Commissioners were then appointed to locate the county seat. Title to the land for the county seat wasn’t secured until February 1850. This 160 acres of land cost the county $200 or $1.25 per acre.
A group of settlers then met and decided to name their town Chariton. Chariton was the name of a Frenchman who established a trading post on the Missouri River where the Chariton River enters it. A surveyor, Williams Webb, was employed to plat the city of Chariton. The total cost being $108.87. The newly-platted lots were sold from $5 to $15 per lot.
The first courthouse was erected in 1850 at a cost of $374. The building being 18 x 22 feet, one and one-half stories high. In June of 1858, the people voted to build a new courthouse for $13,500. The building was built of bricks, 60 feet square and two stories high. The Grand Jury condemned this building in 1891.
Our present third and present courthouse was completed in February 1894 for $59,670.86. The clock in the Courthouse Tower was presented to the county by S. H. Mallory on January 1, 1894 and was wound and put into service May 22, 1894.
Townships were formed April 7, 1851, by the county commissioners. In 1860 the Eighth General Assembly created the board of supervisors. In 1869 the county purchased a 200 acre site of ground just northwest of the city of Chariton for $10,500 to be used as the county home. The county home was in operation until November 27, 1986 when it was closed.
The first two room jail served until 1871. Our present jail was built in 1916. Following are a few of the “Firsts in Lucas County.”
The first permanent settler was William McDermit, locating in the Cedar Township. The First State Bank was started bin 1869 with S. H. Mallory as its president. The first newspaper was printed in 1856 called “The Little Giant.” In 1857 the “Chariton Patriot,” a Republican paper, was founded by John Edwards and in 1867 the Democrat paper named the “Chariton Leader” was founded. William McKay of Fort Des Moines was the first District Judge. The first public library was lad out in September 1849. By 1875 the population in Lucas County reached 11,725, today the population is 9,070. Contract to remove the tower from the courthouse, by Rex Perry was signed July 2, 1954.
In 1992 the Town Square Project started and resulted in new circular sidewalks in the courtyard and new sidewalks going from the circle to the outside of the square. In 1993 the new lights around the circular sidewalk were installed. In the summer of 1996, a sidewalk was put in around the outside of the courtyard and new lights were installed around this. The courtroom in the courthouse was updated with new carpet, window blinds and pews in the summer of 1997. The county went to the Micro-Vote system for voting at the elections in the summer of 1997. In 1999, new carpet was put in all offices in the courthouse. The Treasurers office was moved upstairs to the west side of the courthouse and completely remodeled. This is to accommodate the addition of the Drivers License Registration and Renewal in the year 2000. The assessors office moved to the main floor in the southwest corner (formerly the treasurers office).
Linda Reed, Lucas County Recorder, 2002