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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.

Mahaska County, Iowa

Mahaska County Education, Geography, and HistoryMahaska County, Iowa Courthouse

Mahaska County is a county located in the state of Iowa. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 22,335. Mahaska County was created on February 17, 1843. The county seat is Oskaloosa. The county is named in honor of Mahaska, a chief of the Iowa Native American tribe.

Mahaska County comprises the Oskaloosa, IA Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Etymology - Origin of Mahaska County Name

Mahaska county is named for Mahaska, a chief of the Iowa Native American tribe.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Mahaska County History

Mahaska County was established in 1843 and originated February 5, 1844, the date Iowa's Territorial Legislature enacted the law authorizing the organization of a county named Mahaska. The county was named for one of the most noted chief of the Ioway Indians. Mahaska is interpreted as "White Cloud." Oskaloosa, meaning "last of beautiful" after a Creek Indian princess, was named the county seat.

By this law Mahaska County became two years older than the State of Iowa. William Edmundson, receiving his appointment from the Territorial Assembly, became the first sheriff and justice of peace and was charged with the organization of the twenty-four mile square county. With the help of his clerk, Micajah T. Williams, these two officers divided the county into nine precincts, and by the first Monday in April 1844, an election was held for county officers.

On May 11, 1844 a Commission of three men, appointed from Iowa's Assembly, selected a site for the county seat. The location was the narrowest point on the divide between the Des Moines and Skunk rivers, known as the "Narrows". They left the naming of the new town to the local Board of County Commissioners, who chose the name of Oskaloosa, meaning "last of Beautiful" in honor of a Creek Indian princess.

The County Commissioners, by May 14, 1844, had chosen the grand and petit jurors for the first term of the District Court to be held July 1, 1844. The courtroom was an unfinished log cabin built by William D. Canfield and located within the present limits of Oskaloosa. The first Court House owned by the county was a two-story frame structure built at the northwest corner of the square and occupied in January 1846. It was also used for a church, opera house, and Indian dances. It was abandoned in 1855 and thirty years passed before the first permanent Court House, now located east of the square, was built at a cost of $132,500 and dedicated on February 27, 1886.

Over the years, extensive remodeling has kept this courthouse up-to-date enough to meet the county's needs.

Coal mining brought the county its first sources of wealth.

During the county's first years, vehicles were scarce. The sheriff owned the only buggy. By 1860 the Western Stage Company was doing a thriving business into the county seat from the river. The Des Moines Valley railroad reached the county in 1864, and the Iowa Central Railroad in 1871.

The first County Fair was held in the public square on October 23, 1852, and in 1861 the traveling State Fair was held in Oskaloosa.

Kay Swanson, Mahaska County Auditor, 2002
Jon Lubke, Mahaska County GIS/MIS Coordinator, 2002

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 573 square miles (1,480 km2), of which 571 square miles (1,480 km2) is land and 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2) (0.4%) is water.

Mahaska county is located in southeast Iowa.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • North: Poweshiek County
  • East: Keokuk County
  • Southeast: Wapello County
  • Southwest: Monroe County
  • West: Marion County
  • Northwest: Jasper County


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