Courting Johnson County. In December 1837, Johnson County – Iowa District – Wisconsin Territory came into existence. Within a year, Iowa became a territory and the first county court house was built – the first of four over the last 180+ years. Follow the story with us, as we move from Napoleon to Iowa City, ending up today with a whole new Johnson namesake.
The Johnson County Business Meeting That Changed Iowa History. With the creation of Johnson County, John Gilbert went to work, calling for a “business meeting” where a diverse team of six men and one woman met to draft a strategic plan that would be presented to the Iowa Territorial legislature, requesting major funding for roads, bridges, and a post office! The plan worked and over the next year, big preparations were made to make Johnson County the home of Iowa’s new capital city.
The U.S. Post Office Comes to Johnson County. One of the most important aspects of life for early settlers in Iowa was the receiving and sending of letters. Postal records indicate that Iowa City established its first “officially recognized” post office in 1841. But other records show that Johnson County had postal service prior to that time (1839), even though that service was sketchy at best.
1840 – The Road From Bloomington To Iowa City. When Napoleon was Johnson County’s only pioneer settlement, a roughly-cut trail made its way eastward through the Iowa prairie to Bloomington – on the Mississippi River. But now, in 1840, with Iowa City becoming the new Territorial capital, a new and improved road was needed to connect these two growing communities. Here’s a rare look at the early stages of development on one of Johnson County’s oldest roads.
Philip Clark – Johnson County’s Irish Settler. In 1836, two brave souls from Indiana met up with John Gilbert at Fort Armstrong on the Mississippi River. Within a year, Philip Clark and Eli Myers had moved their families to what would eventually become Johnson County, Iowa. Here’s the amazing story of one man’s transition from being an Irishman from Indiana into one of our area’s most famous farmers.
Johnson County’s Own – Washington Township. Just as Iowa was becoming a state, a small group of farming pioneers from the Casselman River Valley of Maryland & Pennsylvania headed west to Johnson County to start what would eventually become Iowa’s largest Amish-Mennonite community. Here’s the story of how Washington Township got started – and it includes my ggg grand aunt Susanna Miller!
The Boller Farms of Johnson County – 1853. As Iowa became a state in 1846, 40-acre parcels were being sold at low prices to adventurous young men and women back east who wanted to start a new life. The Boller family bought eight parcels (320 acres) of rich farmland in the southwest corner of Johnson County, Iowa, and by 1853 had begun a new adventure on land that is still being farmed by Bollers today.
Johnson County’s Own – Amish, Iowa. Between 1850 and 1880, the little Amish/Mennonite community of Amish, or as it is also called – Joetown – was the center of commerce for Washington Township in Johnson County. But, when the railroad came in – 5 miles south of town – Kalona took off, leaving Amish in the dust. Come read the story of C.C. Yoder – proprietor of Amish’s Dry Goods Store during the latter part of the 19th century.
Johnson County’s Own – The Wandering Doc Comes Home To Solon. Dr. Otto Heinsius came to New York City from Prussia in 1845. Over the next 18 years, the good doctor and his growing family had short stints in Albany, NY, Scranton, PA, and Tuscarawas, OH. But in 1863, the Heinsius finally found a place they loved – Iowa. After eight years in Iowa City, the booming village of Solon needed a doctor and a druggist – so it was one last move for Dr. Otto – The Wanderer who finally found a home!
Cyrus Sanders – Setting Johnson County History Straight. Cyrus Sanders came to Johnson County in 1839, just as Iowa City was being formed. He not only wrote a daily journal about his earliest days here, but in the 1880’s, The Iowa City Daily Republican invited him to write a regular column on Johnson County history. In 1882, a bit of under-handed shannanigans literally stole away Cyrus Sanders’ material, publishing it under other people’s names! But today, we’re giving honor to where honor is due.
The Boller Children & Johnson County Schools. During the second half of the nineteenth century, most schools in Iowa were one-room schoolhouses. Here’s a turn-of-the-century Boller story that’s connected to School #7 (Prairie Dale) in Johnson County, Iowa.
1901 – Opening Johnson County’s New Court House. It’s Saturday – June 8th, 1901 in Iowa City, Iowa. The city is full of excitement – for today is the big dedication ceremony for the new Johnson County Court House. According to the local newspapers at the time – this is one of the largest celebrations in Iowa City in years. Come read all about it.
Johnson County’s New Namesake – What a Lulu! A graduate of SUI – BA in 1929 and a Masters in History (1930) – Johnson went on to distinguish herself as the second African-American woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in History, and the first to receive a Doctorate of any kind in Iowa! In June 2021, Johnson County, Iowa did something that rarely happens – they officially changed their eponyn, removing a racist slave-holding southerner in favor of this amazing African-American Iowa farm girl who spent her life teaching us things we all need to know.
Johnson County Historical Resources. Over the last one-hundred and fifty years, there have been local historians who have painstakingly laid out the stories of our county, leaving us a treasure trove of facts and figures, names and places. Allow me here to introduce you to nine key historic resources, written from 1868 to the present, with on-line links included so you can easily access them as well.
Johnson County Remembrance Markers. Over the last 175+ years, the good people of Johnson County, Iowa have established many remembrance “stones” – memorials placed here and there with the hope that when you and I see them, we will stop and remember the person, event, or story that lies behind the monument we’re looking at. In this post, we give you a quick look at twelve such examples, ranging from 1837 to today.