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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.

Shelby County, Iowa

Shelby County Education, Geography, and HistoryShelby County, Iowa Courthouse

Shelby County is a county located in the state of Iowa. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 12,167. Shelby County was created on January 15, 1851. The county seat is Harlan. Shelby county is named in honor of Isaac Shelby a General in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 who served as the first governor of Kentucky.

Etymology - Origin of Shelby County Name

Shelby county is named for Isaac Shelby, a General in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 who served as the first governor of Kentucky.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Shelby County History

Shelby County was established in 1851 and named after General Isaac Shelby. General Shelby was famous for serving in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and becoming the first governor of the state of Kentucky.

The county originated in 1853. The first court held in the county was in a farmhouse that doubled as a saloon and grocery. This building was located at the first permanent settlement in the county, Galland's Grove.

In 1857 there was a movement to construct the first county courthouse in Shelby County. It was to be located at Shelbyville, but the proposition lost by three votes in a special election. A second proposition limited to $3,000 was also defeated.

Following this there was a bitter county seat battle. The towns involved were Shelbyville, Somida and Harlan. On April 4, 1859 Harlan was declared the county seat of Shelby County - by a majority of only nine votes.

Following two failing attempts by the county to build a courthouse, one was finally constructed in 1860. The $2,500 brick courthouse was destroyed by a fire before it was completed. The county then purchased a building that was being constructed as a "store" building. The total purchase price was $5,000. This building was used until 1876, when it was replaced by a frame structure at a cost of $4,250.

After two years of heated controversy over whether the county could afford a new courthouse, in 1892 the present courthouse was completed in the town square of Harlan. The cornerstone laying ceremony was complete with a parade, bands, speeches and even a baseball game between the stonecutters and the brickmasons; it is not known who won the game.

The impressive looking building was built of stone and brick at a total cost of $62,733.90, including furnishings. One significant feature noted was a private room and toilet room for ladies only adjoining the courtroom. Later, in 1907, the local Woman's Union asked the board of supervisors for another rest room in the basement. The original courthouse contained a large tower, but by 1899 it was causing the building to settle, and thus the tower was removed.

In the December 16, 1903 board minutes a resolution was adopted to prohibit the use of the courthouse basement "as a resort for bootlegging and drinking whiskey."

In 1978, the Shelby County Courthouse was designated as a national historic site. Around that time the courthouse interior was getting a $300,000 facelift. All of this was funded with federal money.

Source: Shelby County Courthouse (centennial booklet, 1992)

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 591 square miles (1,530 km2), of which 591 square miles (1,530 km2) is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2) (0.1%) is water.

Shelby county is located in west Iowa. The Elkhorn Creek is located in this county.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • North: Crawford County
  • Northeast: Carroll County
  • East: Audubon County
  • Southeast: Cass County
  • Southwest: Pottawattamie County
  • West: Harrison County


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