The following information about Hardin County was taken from Hardin County Courthouse Centennial: 1892 - 1992.
|Early History of Hardin County|
|Eldora vs. Point Pleasant|
|Eldora vs. Iowa Falls|
|Hardin County Had First Female Sheriff|
|The Civil War Monument|
|The Present Hardin County Courthouse|
Hardin County was established by act of the Iowa General Assembly on January 15, 1851. It was named in memory of Colonel John J. Hardin, an Illinois legislator, who commanded the First Regiment of Illinois Volunteers in the Mexican-American War. Col. Hardin died February 23, 1847, in the Battle of Buena Vista. Hardin County was attached to Marshall County for court purposes. It was divided into townships, Latham in the south, and Morgan in the north, for election precincts.
In July of 1853, a judicially appointed commission selected the site of the county seat. The site was centrally located between the existing settlements along the Iowa River. The town was named Eldora, by Lois Beal Edgington, after a daughter who died at birth months earlier.
Records are sketchy, but it appears that two buildings served as the Hardin County Courthouse prior to the present structure. The first courthouse has been described as a small frame building, which burned down in 1854 or 1855. Research suggests that it was on the north side of Marian Street, east of the present courthouse square. After the fire it was replaced with a two-story wooden courthouse, on the site of the present county jail. This second building served until 1892.
Several notable events shook the Hardin County Courthouse during its first few decades. In the dead of the night in August 14, 1865, the safe in the County Treasurer's Office was robbed of $13,000. Holes had been drilled and gunpowder used to blow the door off its hinges. Although a Sheriff's posse formed the very next day, and detectives were brought in from Chicago, the culprits were never found.
The county was also wracked by the financial misdealings of two of its officials in its early days. County Auditor D.B. Morse was charged with the misappropriation of thousands of dollars of public money during his term of office from 1876-1877. Morse disappeared after an arrest warrant was issued, and the Board of Supervisors placed a $200 bounty on his head. He was found guilty of charges in 1879 and eventually served six months in the county jail. In 1885, an audit disclosed the shortfall of $9,000 in the accounts of out-going County Treasurer P.J. Cowan. Bondsmen eventually repaid $7,812 and Cowan repaid the balance.
Next to having the state capital, the possession of the county seat was the most coveted distinction for the first settlers in Iowa. Many exciting incidents grew from the county seat contests in Hardin County, as was true in many of Iowa's counties.
It appears Steamboat Rock was the first town in this county to challenge Eldora as a popular place for the county seat of justice. At the election held in April 1856, the question was submitted, resulting in a vote of 452 for Eldora and 100 for Steamboat Rock, thus defeating Steamboat Rock's bid for the courthouse.
In February 1857, a petition was circulated, and 514 signatures were secured, requesting the county judge to order an election for the removal of the county seat to Berlin. The election was held and resulted in the fact that Eldora was still the favored location.
Point Pleasant was the next aspirant for the county seat. This brought about one of the most exciting of all county contests ever staged in Iowa. Every township and school district in the entire county was canvassed pro and con. The election was held and on the first Monday in April 1858, the board convassed the vote. The "board" consisted of John W. Jones, county judge; Ellis Parker; and Joseph Edgington, justice of the peace. The board announced the vote to be 540 for Point Pleasant and 521 for Eldora, giving the former a bare majority of 19. Point Pleasant won...the first round.
In the same month, and before any removal of items from Eldora, application was made to the district court, asking the board of canvassers to re-canvass the votes cast at the election for the relocation of the county seat. The petition asked that the board reject a "certain alleged mutilated and spurious return" which had been allowed by the board, and canvass the vote for Pleasant township. The court permitted the protest and the board re-canvassed the vote, rejecting the poll book in question from Pleasant township. It declared the results to be 520 for Eldora and 440 for Point Pleasant. Eldora thus won out again and remained the county seat. But the story wasn't over.
A fellow by the name of Isaac S. Moore was a leader of the faction wanting the county seat at Point Pleasant. A few days later, Moore made his affidavit of the facts, as he claimed them, in relation to the election returns from Pleasant township, and asked that the affidavit be taken as an answer to the writ and that the former return by the board of canvassers be set aside and the proceedings under it declared null and void. By some oversight, the affidavit was not marked, filed, nor any entry made upon the record in relation to it. The court refused the affidavit and afterwards made a memorandum of it upon the judge's docket.
A few days later, John van Houton and several others applied to the court with an application for an alternative writ of mandamus against the county judge to require him to remove the county offices, books, papers, etc. to Point Pleasant. The judge refused to do this, under advice of his attorney, James M. Wood. He who was later Judge H.C. Henderson of Marshalltown, appeared for the other side, and took exceptions, which the court overruled and the case was submitted to the supreme court of Iowa. The result was that the ruling of the district court was reversed.
At the May term, 1859, of the district court of Hardin County, Moore again attempted to get the election results reversed, saying that the Pleasant township votes should be counted. He appealed to the supreme court, but the case was dismissed. The case again, in another form, was presented to the district court. Ellis Parker was now serving as county judge, rather than Judge Jones. This made the county judge a defendent in the case, so Judge Porter served as judge of the district court. He upheld the original decision. From this decision, Van Houton appealed to the supreme court, and the judgment of the district court was affirmed. For the time being, Eldora was still the county seat.
But the battle was not not yet finished.