Adair County, Iowa  

There seems to be some conflict of opinion as to who was the first white settler in Adair County. It was probably Adair N. Johnson, who came as early as 1849. The next was William Alcorn, who settled at the upper crossing of Middle River in 1850. This was in what is now Jefferson Township in the north part of the county. Perhaps about the same time a man named Lyon erected a cabin near the large spring at Vawter's Grove, in Jackson Township, in 1851. Lyon sold his claim to one Taylor, who was on his way to California with a drove of some four or five hundred head of cattle. Taylor, after wintering his cattle, sold out to J. G. Vawter. Lyon and Taylor were but temporary residents, and left as soon as permanent settlers began to come in. Among the first permanent settlers were William McDonald, who located at the lower crossing of Middle River; Alfred Jones, in Jackson Township; Robert Wilson, in Grand River Township; George M. Holaday, in Jefferson Township;

Walnut Township, in the northwest part of the county, was settled in the Spring and Fall of 1855 by several families from South Carolina. Those who came in the Spring were James Thompson and Isaac S. Arledge; and in the Fall, Charles Smith and Lewis Underwood.

Jeremiah Rinard and Stover Rinard settled in Jefferson Township, adjoining Walnut on the east, in the Summer of 1855. Most of the early settlers in this part of county were from South Carolina and Indiana. Settlements were made this year in various parts of the county.

The first white child, Margaret Johnson, was born in 1850. The first death was that of a child of John Gilson in the same year. The first marriage was that of William Stinson and Elizabeth Crow, the license being issued May 6, 1854, and the marriage solemnized the next day by George M. Holaday, County Judge.

- from A.T. Andreas' Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. 1875





County Seat:  Greenfield

ADAIR COUNTY was created by act of the Legislature of 1851 from territory embraced in the original county of Des Moines.  It lies in the third tier north of Missouri and in the third tier east of the Missouri River.  The county is twenty-four miles square and embraces an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles.  The north tier of townships was from December 31st, 1837, to July 30, 1840, embraced in the old county of Keokuk as first established.  The county was named for General John Adair a distinguished officer of the War of 1812 and afterwards the sixth Governor of Kentucky.

Thomas N. Johnson is the first white man known to have made a home within the limits of the county.  He made a claim and built a log cabin in 1849 on section four in Washington township where, in 1850, he built a mill on a stream running through his farm.  In 1850 William Alcorn made a claim on Middle river at a point known as "the upper crossing."  During the same year a Mr. Lyon took a claim and built a cabin near a large spring in a grove in what became Jefferson township.  In 1851 J. J. Vawter purchased the claim and the grove took his name.  Among the early settlers were William McDonald, who settled at the lower crossing of Middle River, Alfred Jones in Jackson township, Robert Wilson in Grand River, George M. Holiday in Jefferson, Joshua Chapman in Richland and Jacob Bruce in Grove.

In April, 1854, the first election was held in Alfred Jones' cabin at which George M. Holiday was chosen county judge and John Gibson, clerk.  The first court was held in the cabin of the judge on the 6th of May following.  On the 24th of April, 1855, the county-seat was located at Summerset, a town laid out by G. M. Holiday, D. M. Valentine* and Abram Ruth, and six miles south of the center of the county.  In 1856 by act of the Legislature the name was changed to Fontanelle.

*D. M. Valentine moved to Kansas in 1859 where he has been a member of both branches of the Legislature, District Judge and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

The first house in Summerset was a double log cabin built in June, 1855, by James C. Gibbs for a tavern and post-office.  Mr. Gibbs was the first postmaster in the town and county.  A store was opened in 1856 by Calvin Ballard.

At the time the county was organized the population was about one hundred fifty.  The town of Greenfield, laid out in September, 1856, by Milton C. Munger is about six miles northeast of Fontanelle and in 1875 became the county-seat.  Matthew Clark built the first house the same year which was used as a store by A. D. Littleton as well as a station of the Western Stage Company.  The first school in the county was taught by Miss Huldah Lee in 1857 in the court-house at Fontanelle.  The Congregationalists organized the first church in 1856 at the same place.

The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad was built through the extreme northern limits of the county in 1868 upon which the towns of Adair and Casey were laid out.  The first newspaper was established by James C. Gibbs in 1863 and named the Adair County Register.  After a long and bitter contest extending from 1865 to 1875 the county-seat was removed from Fontanelle to Greenfield.


Cities and Towns

Adair Arbor Hill Berea Bridgewater Canby
Casey Fisk Fontanelle Gilead Greenfield
Hebron Howe Linwood Nanito Orient
Prussia Rosserdale Stanzel Stuart Zion




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