History of Calhoun County
In 1851, when the western half of Iowa was organized, the name of Fox was given to the county. The Sac and Fox Indians had lived in the area, and, accordingly, the county west of Calhoun was named Sac in honor of the Indians. A friend of former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun did not like the name Fox, so the Iowa Legislature changed the name to Calhoun in 1853.
Before Calhoun County was organized, residents paid taxes to Greene County. They observed that very little revenue came back to make improvements in Calhoun County, so they took the necessary steps to organize in 1855, with a population of less than 100. Until a courthouse was built in Lake City in 1856, county business was conducted in the homes of the officials.
When the Illinois Central Railroad was built in 1870, the county's northern towns of Manson and Pomeroy had grown and become rivals of Lake City for the county seat. In 1876, this came to a head and it was voted to put the courthouse as near the center of the county as possible. Rockwell City, platted on the only high ground within a one-mile radius of the center of the county, was founded and became the county seat.
The first courthouse in Rockwell City was completed for less than $2,000 and also served as a schoolhouse.
In 1880, town founder Mr. Rockwell learned that F.M. Hubbell was bringing his railroad as far as Jefferson. Rockwell went to Des Moines and promised Hubbell half of the town lots if he would bring the railroad to Rockwell City. The first train arrived August 7, 1882, and the population doubled that year.
Few people are aware that the early courthouse on the square was used for activities other than "holding court". The Calhoun County courthouse was used as an auditorium for public entertainment, political gatherings, and church dinners.
When the courthouse burned down in 1884, a hotel and another building were rented for $1 a day apiece to house county offices. The Board of Supervisors decided to build the new courthouse further away from the railroad, because when trains came through all courthouse business at the old location was suspended because of the noise. A fourth courthouse was built in 1913.
Our present Calhoun County Courthouse is located at the city square in Rockwell City, Iowa. Inside, a beautiful stained glass dome shines from above greeting many visitors. The Calhoun County Courthouse is an architechural masterpiece with many arches, painted murals, brass stair rails, oak woodwork, and mosiac tiled floors.
Since construction of the courthouse in 1914, it has required very little maintenance other than paint and general touchups. Starting in 1982 a restoration and beautification of the courthouse began. Jon, a local contractor, began stripping and varnishing the woodwork in each room. Another construction company removed the sagging ceiling and replaced it with a new tile ceiling, and in 2001 an Iowa company took down the stained glass dome, cleaned, and reassembled it in its original place. Calhoun County should be proud of its courthouse, for in 1966 it was placed on the National Register of Historical Buildings.
During the turn of the century, drainage came to Calhoun County. Through digging of dredge ditches and laying of countless miles of clay drain tile, the county was lifted out of water and has now become one of the best and most productive agricultural counties in the state.
-Calhoun County History 1854-1982, Calhoun County Historical Society, Copyright 1982.
-Doug Jensen, Fort Dodge Messenger article 9/27/87.
-Brief History of Calhoun County, adapted and extended by Ruby Pridemore.
-Who's Who in Iowa, 1940 "Calhoun County Historical Society".