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.1 The Iowa county
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
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
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.
of Historic Places 1981
The present building was built for
$1,928.15 in 1856.
Drake & Dryden designed and built the Greek
which is one of the oldest courthouses and one of few that are left
in this architectural style in Iowa.[
was begun in 1856.
It is the
still in use.
The county first had three
Bear Creek. These were later subdivided and
the eventual sixteen townships now in existence
were formed, adding:
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.
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
a site dedicated small town life in Iowa.