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Iowa Counties

There are ninety-nine counties in Iowa. The first two counties, Des Moines County and Dubuque County, were created in 1834 when Iowa was still part of the Michigan Territory. In preparation for Michigan's statehood, part of Michigan Territory was formed into Wisconsin Territory in 1836]. Two years later, the western portion was split off to become Iowa Territory. The south-eastern part of Iowa Territory became Iowa, the 29th state in the union, on 28 December 1846, by which point 44 Counties had been created. Counties continued to be created by the state government until 1857, when the last county, Humboldt County, was created.

Buena Vista County, Iowa

Buena Vista County Education, Geography, and HistoryBuena Vista County, Iowa Courthouse

Buena Vista County is a county located in the state of Iowa. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 20,260. Buena Vista County was created on January 15, 1851. The county seat is Storm Lake. The county is named for the final victory field of General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican-American War.

Buena Vista County comprises the Storm Lake, IA Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Etymology - Origin of Buena Vista County Name

Buena Vista County is named for the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican-American War. (Unique county name)


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Buena Vista County History

Buena Vista, which is Spanish for "Beautiful View" or "Good View", was the name of a battle in the Mexican War in which General Zachary Taylor defeated General Santa Ana.

The county was established in 1851. Quickly after the county was organized in 1859, three commissioners selected 10 acres of land in Lee Township (in the northern tier of townships) for the county seat. They named this site Prairieville - it was also referred to as Leesburg. This town was merely a "paper town" and it soon faded out of existence. It was not until 10 years later that a courthouse was finally constructed at Sioux Rapids. In 1870 a simple, two-story frame courthouse was constructed at a cost of $4,945. On January 1, 1877 this building was destroyed by a fire.

The citizens of Storm Lake, Hayes Township (southern tier of townships), wasted little time in taking advantage of this fire. They formed the Storm Lake Building Association and constructed a two-story city hall in 1878. They offered this building to the county rent-free for ten years, if they used it as a courthouse. The supervisors accepted the offer. It then went to an election where it passed by a margin of 700 votes. The county seat was then ordered to move to Storm Lake on October 14, 1878.

This courthouse soon became too small and when the 10-year lease expired, there was a call for a new courthouse. In a close election- 737 for a new courthouse and 725 against- construction of a third courthouse was approved. This courthouse, built in 1888 at a cost of $25,000, was made of pressed brick and was decorated with a large cupola. This courthouse stood in the center of the courthouse square and was surrounded by numerous trees.

In 1968 a bond issue was approved for the current courthouse. The $1.2 million courthouse was designed by Frevert-Ramsey of Des Moines. It was dedicated in 1972, and it sits on the same site as the previous courthouse. A painting of the 1888 courthouse and jail, painted by Franklin Halverson, an early resident of Sioux Rapids, hangs on first floor. Several others of his paintings hang in the lobby.

Due to the size of the Iowa Dept. of Human Services and the increasing need for space for the court system, the county purchased a brick building across the street east from the courthouse. After renovation in 1990, the offices moved into the DHS Annex.

Additional growth in court services and public health, led to the purchase of another building in 1996 on the east side of town, now known as the East Richland Annex, and currently housing Public Health & Homecare, the Naturalist, and Community Services. Nearly all of the second floor of the courthouse is now dedicated to court services including Clerk of District Court and Small Claims, District and Magistrate Courtrooms, judges chambers, jury room, law library, offices for two juvenile probation officers, CASA, a juvenile judge, a resident district court judge and court reporter, and a conference room also used as a juvenile courtroom.

In the mid-nineties the County Conservation Board commissioned Lance Christensen, assisted by Steve Brauhn, to construct a wildlife exhibit which was installed in the courthouse lobby in 1998. It features wildlife native to the area including a deer, muskrat, hawk and other birds, waterfowl, mink, badger, raccoon, and pheasant. A number of wildlife prints, including several by Brauhn, a native of the county who also painted the display's background mural, hang on the backside of the exhibit. Soon to be added to the display are a wild turkey and a river otter.

Through the years, the average jail population steadily increased. A citizen committee led by the sheriff studied the issue of inadequate jail space. Their recommendations led to a $5,775,000 general obligation bond election on February 1, 2000, for a new jail and sheriff's office. To allow for future growth and housing of outside prisoners, the number of jail beds would have been more than triple the original number which the current jail was certified for - 18. The issue was defeated with the following vote: Yes- 592 (18.79%), No- 2,562 (81.29%). Adjustments to law enforcement procedures, and changes in the jail standards, provided some relief. Also, several nearby counties approved construction of new jails all of which were designed to house outside prisoners. There are no current plans for a new jail or jail expansion.

In addition to the Sheriff and jail, currently the Board of Supervisors, Auditor, Treasurer, Recorder, Assessor, Environmental Health and Zoning Director, Engineer, Veterans Services Officer, Emergency Management Coordinator, Communications Center, and Custodian, occupy the main and basement floors of the courthouse.

The local chapter of the DAR began displaying what is now known as the 'Parade of Flags' on the courthouse lawn in 1973. Nearly 800 US flags have been given in memory of veterans with roots in Buena Vista County. Each Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Veterans Day the beautiful display of these flags fills the open space of courthouse square.

Source: Karen Strawn, Buena Vista County Auditor, 2002

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 580 square miles (1,500 km2), of which 575 square miles (1,490 km2) is land and 5.3 square miles (14 km2) (0.9%) is water.

Buena Vista county is located in northwest Iowa.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • North: Clay County
  • Northeast: Palo Alto County
  • East: Pocahontas County
  • Southeast: Calhoun County
  • South: Sac County
  • Southwest: Ida County
  • West: Cherokee County
  • Northwest: O'Brien County


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