Scott County History

Scott County History

General Winfield Scott

General Winfield Scott


Photo of Buffalo Bill Cody.

February 26, 1846: Scott County becomes birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody


Antoine LeClaire

Antoine LeClaire


Scott County Courthouse

The Second Scott County Courthouse

SCOTT COUNTY GOVERNMENT
PAST TO PRESENT

Settlement first began in what became Scott County around 1833. Soon after towns sprang up along the Mississippi River. By 1836 the first survey of public land in Iowa was called for, and by March of 1837 the Scott County area had been completely surveyed. The territorial governor required this survey prior to the organization of the county.

Subsequently, Scott County was established by an act of the territorial legislature of Wisconsin in December 1837. The new county was named in honor of General Winfield Scott (pictured here), who was the presiding officer at the signing of the peace treaty ending the Black Hawk War.

1838 was a year of organization for Scott County. The first election of county officers was held on third Monday in February. B. F. Pike, A. W. Campbell, and Alfred Carter were selected as County Commissioners and John Sheller as the County Recorder. In October, Major Frazer Wilson was appointed Sheriff. He served both Scott and Rock Island Counties. St. Anthony's Church in Davenport hosted the first Scott County District Court that same year. The first session lasted three days, and the juries met in an available room on the nearby property of George L. Davenport.

The voters of Scott County were also responsible for choosing the county seat in the election of 1838. Rockingham and the newly incorporated city of Davenport were the competitors. After Davenport had seemingly won, cries of fraud were raised following the election, so another election was held in August. This time Davenport, Rockingham and Winfield were the competitors. Davenport, however, offered more land, buildings and cash donations than the other two towns and eventually won by default. Davenport is one of the few cities that has maintained its original Charter City designation, meaning it was a city before Iowa became a state.

Iowa became the 29th state of the United States on December 28, 1846.

Antoine LeClaire, an early settler of the county, donated the square of land the Scott County Courthouse stands on today. If the county ever abandons the site, the property would revert to the heirs of Antoine LeClaire. The first courthouse was erected on this land during 1840-41 and served for 45 years.

The period from 1845 to 1880 saw changes and additions to the structure of Scott County government. One of the major changes was in the structure of the governing board. From 1838 until 1850 county commissioners were elected on an annual basis. By 1861, the name Board of Supervisors had been mandated, with 14 supervisors from throughout the county representing the citizens. In 1870 the structure changed again, and only three board supervisors were elected countywide. In 1874, the membership of the Board of Supervisors increased to its present five officials. Other governmental activities during this period included the elections of the first County Treasurer and County Auditor, in 1843 and 1869 respectively. Scott County's first prosecuting attorney was elected in 1847. Judge Henry H. Benson was elected the initial circuit court judge in 1868. Township lines were organized in 1846, and the first permanent fire company was established in 1856.

With added elected officials and increased county responsibilities, the first Courthouse was declared inadequate, so a second courthouse was erected in 1886 for a cost of $125,000. This Courthouse was magnificent architecturally, but poor structurally. Cracks were evident from settling even before plastering began. The Courthouse was slowly sinking into the sandy soil, and continued to even after the huge dome was removed. After enduring severely cracked walls, termites, and dangerously slanting steps, the Board of Supervisors commissioned the demolition of the second courthouse on March 22, 1955. The second courthouse had served through a period of phenomenal growth for Scott County as it moved into the twentieth century.

Atlas of Scott County Population figures grew from 51,500 in 1900 to over 100,000 by 1950. In conjunction with this population growth, citizen services also increased. In 1949 the county under took zoning responsibilities, and in 1956 the Conservation Board was formed. By the 1960's the Conservation Board had created the Scott County Park System for citizen use. Another important service, the Scott County Library, started up in 1950. Health and Community Services' responsibilities also increased greatly during this time. The growing functions of the county made adequate facilities a necessity, so from 1955 to 1980 the county undertook physical expansion projects. In 1955 the Board of Supervisors authorized construction for the present aluminum-clad Scott County Courthouse. The annex was remodeled in 1973, and the Bi-Centennial Building was renovated for county use in 1976. In 1980, the people passed the Jail Referendum for physical improvements in the county jails, which was first erected in 1897.

Only recently have there been dramatic changes in the actual governing of the county. In 1979 an administrative form of government was adopted, and the Board of Supervisors hired a county administrator. Subsequently, staff and departments have grown in efficiency and capacity to serve citizens. In 1978 the County Home Rule Bill was enacted, granting all powers to counties consistent with state laws and not specifically prohibited by the Iowa General Assembly. County Home Rule broadened the powers of the Board of Supervisors to lead the 160,000 people of Scott County to greater prosperity and growth.

Scenic imageRivers on three sides bind Scott County. The Wapsipinicon is on the North and the Mississippi is on the East and South. There tends to be some disorientation by persons visiting Scott County, because the majority of the Mississippi, which is a north to south river, actually runs east to west in most of Scott County.

For more information about the communities of Scott County, click here. For a profile of the County, click here.