The Van Buren County courthouse in Keosauqua, completed in 1843, is the oldest courthouse in Iowa and the second oldest courthouse in continuous use since its completion in the United States.
It currently appears to be undergoing renovation, so although the two brick buildings with offices on either side appeared to be open, we didn't make it into the courthouse. We only admired it from the outside.
This courthouse is where the first legal death penalty in Iowa was handed down (in 1845). The convicted was hanged in April of 1846, north of the courthouse at a place called Hangman's Hollow. That was the only time a person was sentenced to death in Van Buren County.
Van Buren County was formed December 7, 1836, and named for Martin Van Buren, the president-elect, who was inaugurated March 4, 1837. Keosauqua, the name of the town, was derived from the Meskwaki and Sauk name for the Des Moines River.
|We saw a couple retaining walls like this one in Keosauqua on our trip. It's made of wire fencing filled with rocks.|
The Honey War took place just south of Keosauqua in 1839. Due to unclear wording in important documents, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations, there was a dispute over a 9.5 mile strip extending the entire length of the border between Missouri and Iowa.
Missouri tax collectors attempted to collect taxes in Van Buren and Davis Counties, but as the story goes, they were chased away by residents with pitchforks after chopping down three hollow trees containing honey to collect the honey in partial payment for the taxes.
The Missouri governor sent 11 mounted militiamen to protect the tax collector. But Missouri General Willock didn't want to see blood shed between the two states over an issue that should have been settled legally. An Iowan mob captured the Clark County, Missouri sheriff and put him in a Muscatine, Iowa jail. The Iowa militia was called out to guard the border, which they did, armed with flintlocks, blunderbusses, swords, plow coulters, and sausage stuffers. However, the two governors decided to let Congress decide the issue instead of fighting it out, and the only casualties remained the three honey trees.