Chief Poweshiek







Chief Poweshiek, born 1791, was a  member of the Fox-Mesquaki Indian Tribe. He was the son of Black Thunder, and a member of the Bear Clan of the Fox-Mesquaki Tribe. Chief Poweshiek was a big man who ruled with kindness but also an iron hand. Living along with Chief Wapello, they lived near the present-day Davenport on the Mississippi River. Poweshiek and his followers had intermingled with the Black Hawk Sauk, who had left Illinois for Iowa in the 1820's.   He was known as brave, blunt, and respected. His name means to "dash the water off" or "roused bear" according to the Biographical Dictionary of Iowa.The Iowa county of Poweshiek is named for the Fox-Mesquaki Indian Chief that was for peace during the Black Hawk War.

In 1842, a treaty was signed by the US Government and the Sac and Fox Indian tribes, opening up the area now encompassing Poweshiek County to settlement. It was first a part of Keokuk County, later part of Iowa County and then part of Mahaska County before being officially designated Poweshiek County on April 3, 1848. It is named after Chief Poweshiek of the Sac and Fox Tribes.  The present area of the county was said to be the hunting and fishing grounds for Chief Poweshiek. He was known as the "Peaceful Indian," having signed the Treaty that ended the Black Hawk War. Iowa officially became a state in 1846. The graphic here states Poweshiek was born in 1797 and death in 1847. The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa says he died in 1854.


Latitude 41 deg 39 min North, longitude 92 deg 37 min West

The first permanent settlers arrived in May 1843: Richard B. Ogden and his wife in the southern part of the county and Henry Snook and his wife and eight children settled in the northern part. A steady stream of settlers followed. The settlement of the county progressed generally from south to north. The county seat of Montezuma was selected in the southern part of the county because at the time, it was felt the northern portion of the county would not be settled.


In 1856, a contingent of Mormon settlers, migrating from Nauvoo, IL to Utah crossed Iowa including Poweshiek County. One of the settlers sons, Job Wellington, Jr. is buried near the present town of Malcom. The settlers traveled pulling handcarts.


The county of Poweshiek was established on February 17, 1843. After its boundaries were defined, it was attached to Iowa County for three years. After that it was formally organized and attached to Mahaska County until April 3, 1848, when the county held its first election.


The first courthouse was built in Montezuma in was started in 1848.  The courthouse was a two-story wooden structure that contained three apartments on the second floor for county officials. This building was used as a courthouse, school, church, and a social gathering place until 1857. In 1857 the construction of the county's second and current courthouse was begun, thus making it one of the oldest courthouses in Iowa.


The total cost of this courthouse was $21,928.15. It is constructed of brick and its foundation, caps and sills are of limestone. Over the years the building has undergone several changes. In 1890 an addition was completed, and in 1933-1934 the courthouse was raised, and a full basement and new foundation were completed. This project cost approximately $15,000 to complete.

Taken from History of County Governments in Iowa, published in 1992 by Iowa State Association of Counties, Des Moines, Iowa.




National Register

of Historic Places 1981

The present building was built for

 $1,928.15 in 1856.[3] 

  1. Drake & Dryden designed and built the Greek Revival structure, which is one of the oldest courthouses and one of few that are left in this architectural style in Iowa.[

Poweshiek County




was begun in 1856.


 It is the


 second oldest




still in use.




The county first had three townships: Sugar Creek, Jackson, and Bear Creek. These were later subdivided and the eventual sixteen townships now in existence were formed, adding: Chester, Deep River, Lincoln, Grant, Jefferson, Scott, Malcom, Warren, Union, Madison, Washington, Pleasant, and Sheridan.


Pleasant Township was officially organized March 1, 1858, on the petition of G.N. Wilson and others. The town of Ewart was platted in 1875 by three Ewart brothers: Robert, Matthew, and Robinson. Little remains of the original town. There is a Presbyterian Church, now inactive, and a cemetery northwest of Ewart.


Originally nine schools were designated for each township, including Pleasant Township where Ewart was settled. Montezuma was designated the county seat in June 1848. The first courthouse was started in that year, and completed in 1850. The present courthouse was begun in 1856, and is said to be the second oldest courthouse still in use in Iowa. It has been enlarged in recent years, in the same style, and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.


Montezuma can be visited online at Montezuma Iowa, a site dedicated small town life in Iowa.

  1. Colbert, Thomas Burnell, "Poweshiek"  The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa.  University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 30 July 2017 tanek, Edward and Jacqueline (1976). Iowa's Magnificent County Courthouses. Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead. p. 164. ISBN 0-87069-189-9.
  2. Jump up

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