Franklin County History

Early History of Franklin County
County Settlement Timeline
Ghost Towns

Early Courthouses

Current Couthouse

Courthouse Statues


Early History of Franklin County

Franklin County was created in 1851 by an act of the State Legislature, but it was not organized until 1855. Until that time there were not enough settlers in the vicinity to hold an election; therefore Franklin County was attached to Hardin and Chickasaw counties for judicial and civil purposes. The new county was called Franklin for Benjamin Franklin, although it remained nameless from its creation in 1851 until 1855.

Franklin County was the 5th county west of the Mississippi in the 3rd tier from the northern boundary of the state, lying between the 93rd and 94th meridians. The records state that James M. Marsh had a surveying contract, in pursuance of which about the 20th of August 1849, began running the township lines of this county finishing in the latter part of September 1849.

Morgan township was comprised of the territory now embraced in the townships of Morgan, Oakland, Scott and Wisner, being twenty-four miles north and south, and six miles east and west. Reeve comprised the present townships of Osceola, Grant, Lee, Geneva, Reeve and Hamilton and was twelve miles north and south, and eighteen miles east and west. Washington township included Ingham, Mott, Washington, Marion, West Fork, Clinton, Ross and Richland, being the same size as Reeve.

The lower tier of townships of Osceola, Grant, Lee and Oakland were surveyed soon after by another crew and the lines separating the rest were done at a later date, roughly 1851 or 1852. Since 1856, there have been many changes made in the boundaries of townships, until they have assumed their present limits. At present, Franklin County contains 16 Congressional townships, each one 6 miles each way, finally named Reeve, Morgan, West Fork, Osceola, Ingham, Geneva, Oakland, Hamilton, Grant, Lee, Wisner, Richland, Scott, Marion, Ross and Mott.

On August 5, 1855, by an order of the county judge in Chickasaw county, an election was held at the home of James B. Reeve. Forty-eight men voted and chose the following officers; James B. Reeve as County Judge; Isaac Miller as Treasurer and Recorder; Dr. Mitchell as Clerk of Courts; John Popejoy as Assessor; H.P. Allen as Surveyor; A.A. Jordan as Prosecuting Attorney; C.M. Leggett and Jones as Justices of the Peace; and Solomon Staley as Sheriff.

After the election the returns were sent to Bradford, the Chickasaw county seat, the newly elected Judge James Reeve and the Treasurer Isaac Miller made the long journey to Davenport to get the books and various blanks to be used in the business of the county. Solomon Staley went to Bradford and qualified, and upon his return, swore in the balance of the first officials. The Reeve home became the first courthouse, sometimes leaving the family little room for themselves. The first census was taken in the new county in 1856; the population at that time was found to be 780. Four years later, it was 1,309.

After Franklin County had been organized, a county seat was needed. The people were nearly made the victim of a group of speculators. District Judge McFarland disregarded the petition presented by the settlers asking men whom they had chosen to be appointed as commissioners. He said flatly: I appoint Dr. Rult one of the commissioners, and I don't care if the people of Franklin County like it or not. And, I also appoint M.M. Trumbull, of Butler County, and J.D. Thompson, of Hardin County, who voted for me, as the other two commissioners.

The commissioners met several times, and in spite of Trumbull's protests, decided to locate the county seat on land owned by Thomas Abel and to call the new town Jefferson. Trumbull voted for a site on property owned by Job Garner. The Franklin County settlers did not like the commissioners' choice, for Thomas Abel actually made his residence in Marshall County to the south. They felt it was a plan to make money at their expense, for any town site always becomes a valuable piece of land when it is divided up into lots and sold. The Franklin County citizens, believing that the county seat question had become an excuse for land speculation, filed a petition asking the commissioners to order a vote on the subject at the next April (1856) election. A condition of this petition required the site for the new town to be located on the farm of Job Garner, a resident of the county. The petition was properly posted, signed and filed in Judge James B Reeve's court.

At the April election, the settlers gathered to defeat the commissioners and land speculators, decided almost unanimously for the Garner site. Thus, with the help of Judge Reeve, who wanted to see fair play, and the untiring work of another man, M. M. Trumbull, the pioneer's wishes were respected and their rights maintained.

Two Franklin County men, Job Garner and George Ryan, gave 40 acres of land, which was platted and sold for town lots. The sale of these lots made the county enough money to build the courthouse and do necessary work such as laying city streets, building roads, and paying for the cost of the surveying and platting. On June 2, 1856, H. P. Allen, the county surveyor, finished the work of platting the village and the plat was recorded.

The name Benjamin, honoring Benjamin Franklin, was chosen for the new town by both Garner and Ryan, was used for some time. When R. F. Piatt objected on the ground that there was already another Benjamin in the state, Judge Reeve was induced to change the name to Hampton, after Hampton Roads, Virginia. Piatt, who was among the first lawyers to practice in Franklin County, had taken a prominent part in its early development.

Hampton, 2 miles east of the center of the county, was later to be connected with the rest of the world by good roads and 3 railroads, but at the time of the organization of the county there was no road at all and very few horses or oxen. Before post offices were established in Franklin County, one had to go to Cedar Falls, usually on horseback. In 1857, a post office was established at Maysville where most of the mail for Hampton was delivered. Later that year, an office was chartered for Hampton. On December 19, Robert F. Piatt was commissioned the first postmaster.

During the winter of 1856-57, Franklin County had a private school in a small building on the corner of Reeve and Second Street; the parents subscribed a certain sum of money for its upkeep. In the spring of 1857, a real schoolhouse was built in Hampton. It cost a little more than $100.00 and was not equipped with desks. The second school, a frame structure built in the following year, was paid for with public funds raised by taxation as soon as the county was completely organized.

In 1857, Franklin County had even been crossed, although only in the extreme south-east corner, by its first railroad, the Dubuque- Sioux City line. 

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