Would you like to visit a county without any stoplights or fast food restaurants? Head to Butler County, Iowa! This July, Yai and I visited the Butler County Courthouse in Allison, Iowa. Butler County was formed in 1851 and, like Hardin County, was named for a Mexican-American war hero.
General William Orlando Butler first served as a private in the War of 1812. During the Battle of the River Raisin, he and his comrades were under such intense fire that afterward he found his clothing was riddled with bullets. He was captured by the Indians and held as a prisoner of war by the British till he was released on parole.
At the Battle of the Thames he was promoted to colonel for bravery, and then went on to fight at the Battle of New Orleans. After the war, he returned to Kentucky where he became a lawyer, was elected to the statehouse and, eventually, became a congressman. He also published a volume of verse: The Boatman's Horn and Other Poems.
During the Mexican-American war, he served as second-in-command under future president Zachary Taylor during the Battle of Monterrey. In 1848 he became commanding general of the American forces in Mexico City.
That same year, he was offered the vice-presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. With Lewis Cass, he ran against Whigs Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore, but lost the election. He later declined an offer to become governor of Nebraska territory.
Upon entering the courthouse, I noticed a display featuring Butler County history, old license plates, photos of the beautiful 1881 courthouse, and much more. The first floor held the usual county offices (DMV, auditor, etc.)
Above is a conference room and the magistrate office. Below you can see the magistrate courtroom, more conference rooms, and the library. The clerk of court's and judge's offices and the aforementioned rooms are on the second floor.
The present Butler County courthouse was opened in 1975, and cost $940,000 to build. It replaced the 1881 courthouse, which was built when the county seat was moved to Allison.
Originally the county seat had been in Clarksville. From there, it had been moved to Butler Center, but that town proved difficult to access during winter weather. When the railroad laid tracks through Allison, the courthouse followed.
The county seat's movements from one town to another were not without drama. Many towns in the county wanted to serve as the seat. There were votes, protests, hard feelings, and injunctions.
The main courtroom seemed spacious and relatively modern.
When we left, I drove around the block and was surprised to see that on the courthouse grounds there is a one-room schoolhouse. Also on display is the Coster Church Bell given by Mark Toll in memory of Irving and Mary Toll. And there's a Hall of Fame of Butler County residents, housed under the cupola of the 1881 courthouse.
There had just been a hard rain, and the grass was super-soggy, so I got my shoes and socks wet. It might be smarter to visit on a drier day, but don't forget to drive around the block to see the sights!