Iowa Counties
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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.

Lyon County, Iowa

Lyon County Education, Geography, and HistoryLyon County, Iowa Courthouse

Lyon County is the most northwesterly county of the state of Iowa. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 11,581.  Lyon County was created on January 15, 1851. The county seat is Rock Rapids. The county is named in honor of Nathaniel Lyon (1818–1861), brigadier general in the Mexican and Seminole Wars.

Lyon county is named for Nathaniel Lyon, an Iowan soldier who was the first United States general killed in the American Civil War.  Lyon was killed while leading the First Iowa Infantry at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri. This was the first battle in which Iowa troops took part in the American Civil War.

Etymology - Origin of Lyon County Name

Lyon County is named in honor of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, who served in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. He was killed at the battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, on August 10, 1861, after which the county was named for him. The county's name was originally Buncombe County, but was changed by the state legislature on September 11, 1862.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

LyonCounty History

Lyon County was named in honor of Nathaniel Lyon, brigadier general in the Mexican and Seminole Wars. Lyon was killed while leading the First Iowa Infantry at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri. This was the first battle in which Iowa troops took part.

The county was established in 1851. The county was originally called Buncombe County, in honor of Edward Buncombe of North Carolina. On September 11, 1862 it was officially changed to Lyon County. The county originated in 1872.

The first county business was held in the homes of the various county officials, often over 45 miles apart. Some offices were held in the village of Beloit. In 1873 the county offices were all located in the town of Rock Rapids, named for the rapids found in the Rock River.

Bids for the first courthouse were opened on May 5, 1873 but it was not until June 24, 1874 that the cornerstone was laid into place. The $14,000 courthouse was dedicated in 1875.

This building was later moved to the north, where it became the Marietta Hotel. Today the three-story building stands as the Boon-Mar Apartments.

The present Lyon County courthouse was started in 1916 and completed one year later at a cost of $135,053. The three-story structure is constructed of Indiana limestone, and the main entrance is appropriately decorated with a carved stone lion.

Construction of an elevator for the courthouse was first proposed in 1967, but objectors appeared at a public hearing with a petition signed by 136 people who were opposed to the project. The matter was dropped until 1987, when an elevator and an exterior chairlift were installed.

Many of the original pieces of oak furniture are still used in the building. In the summer of 1991, an inventory was taken of all unused furniture, equipment and miscellaneous items throughout the building. Many of these pieces were donated to the Lyon County Historical Society. A public auction was held to dispose of the rest of the items.

Sources: Buncombe to Twenty Two, Paul C. Smith & Lucy Colby
Anniversary Booklet and Lyon County Minute Books
Kenneth Mellema, Lyon County Auditor

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 588 square miles (1,520 km2), of which 588 square miles (1,520 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.02%) is water.

 Lyon county is located in northwest Iowa. Lyon County is the location of Gitchie Manitou State Preserve, which contains some of the oldest exposed bedrock in the country. Lake Pahoja is located in the northwest part of the county. It is a man-made lake with an area of just over 70 acres.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • North: Rock County, Minn.
  • Northeast: Nobles County, Minn.
  • East: Osceola County
  • Southeast: O'Brien County
  • South: Sioux County
  • West: Lincoln County, S.Dak.
  • Northwest: Minnehaha County, S.Dak.


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