In January 1839, the legislature voted to locate a permanent territorial capital in Johnson County. Chauncey Swan was one of three commissioners chosen to locate the site for what would be called Iowa City. The legislature directed the commissioners to meet in Johnson County on May 1, but only Swan – escorted by local resident Frederick Irish – arrived that morning – at John Gilbert’s trading house. At noon, Swan told the crowd that was gathered that at least two commissioners needed to be present – or the project to locate the capitol would be postponed. He suggested that if one more commissioner could be summoned before midnight, the process could continue. A local farmer – young Philip Clark mounted a horse and fetched John Ronalds from his home in Louisa County – a one-way distance of 35 miles! In the official record, Swan reported that Ronalds arrived around 11:00 p.m.- but local lore maintains that Swan actually turned back the hands on his watch to ensure that Ronalds arrived before midnight!
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