Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
Putnam County is one of the extreme northern counties of the State. It is bounded on the north by portions of Wayne and Appanoose Counties, Iowa, on the east by Schuyler County, on the south by Adair and Sullivan Counties and on the west by Sullivan and Mercer Counties.
(For the early history of Putnam County, the reader is referred to the Directory of Sullivan County.)
The act creating Putnam County was approved February 28, 1845. The boundaries are given on page 449 Hist. of Putnam County ...
On February 4, 1873 the following townships were defined:
Elm Township to contain Congressional Township 65, Range 17 and all that part of Township 64, Range 16 and of Township 65, Range 16, and of Township 64, Range 17, to lie in Putnam County ...
Grant Township to contain Congressional Township 66, Range 16, and that part of Township 67, Range 16, and that part of Township 67, Range 16 lying in Putnam County ...
Liberty Township to contain Congressional Township 66, Range 17, and that part of Township 67, Range 17 lying in Putnam County ...
Lincoln Township to contain Congressional Township 66, Range 18, and that part of Township 67, Range 18 lying in Putnam County ...
Richland Township to contain Congressional Township 66, Range 19, and that part of Township 67, Range 19 lying in Putnam County ...
Wilson Township to contain Congressional Township 65, Range 19 ...
Jackson Township to contain Congressional Township 65, Range 20, and the southern tier of Sections 31 to 36 inclusive, of Township 66, Range 20 ...
Sherman Township to contain Congressional Township 66, Range 20, except as above, and that part of Township 67, Range 20, lying in Putnam County ...
York Township to contain Congressional Township 66, Range 21, and all that part of Township 67, Range 21, lying in Putnam County; also the east half of Township 66, Range 22, and that portion of Township 67, Range 22, lying in Putnam County ...
Medicine Township to contain Congressional Township 65, Range 21, and the east half of Township 65, Range 22 ... pp. 455, 456.
Dodge County was originally created by an act approved December 18, 1846. By that act its boundaries and territory were defined to be "all that part of the county of Putnam west of the center of Range 19, and ther territory lying within the following limits, to-wit: beginning at the northwest corner of Sullivan County, and running thence east along the said Sullivan line to the center of Range 19; thence north, along with the center of Range 19, to the State boundary line, thence west with said line to the northeast corner of Mercer County, thence south with the said Mercer County line to the place of beginning." This territory wa declared to be created into a
distinct and separate county, to be organized afterwards, and to be known by the name of the county of Dodge.
The second section of this act was to the effect that Dodge County was attached to the county of Putnam for all civil and military purposes, but the citizens thereof were not to be taxed by the county of Putnam for the erection of public buildings. "Neither shall the citizens of Dodge County be entitled to vote for the location of the county seat of justice of Putnam County." (--p. 587) (The Hist. of Putnam County, pp. 589, 590, has a listing of the assessor's book of Dodge County in 1852.)
The reason for the disorganization of Dodge County was that it and Putnam as well as some other counties embraced within their original limits a strip of land nine miles wide which was claimed by both Missouri and Iowa. The two states agreed to let the courts settle the dispute. The disputed land was awarded to Iowa. By this decision Schuyler, Putnam and Dodge Counties were reduced within the constitutional limits as to territory, and Dodge and Putnam were consolidated and Schuyler was saved by constitutional amendment. (--p. 591.)
Page numbers refer to Hist. of Putnam Co., 1888.
Putnamville was the first county seat. (--po. 426.)
August 25, 1847, it was also ordered by the commissioners recently appointed to locate the permanent seat of justice of this county, on the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 7, Township 66, Range 12, containing in all fifty-five acres, shall be the permanent seat of justice of this county, and shall be known by the name of Calhoun ... and from and after this date all courts holden for and in this county shall be held in the court-house in the town of Calhoun. (--p. 463.)
August 22, 1848, the court examined the petition for the removal of the county seat from Putnamville to the center of the county. The prayer of the petitioners was granted ... An election was held on December 15 and 16, 1848, for the purpose of selecting a new county seat to be located on the southwest quarter of Section 12, Township 66, Range 18 ...
A regular term of the court was held February 9, 1849, at the new county seat which was called Winchester ... (--p. 464.)
May 6, 1851, an election was ordered for June 14, to vote for and against the location of the county seat ... June 18, 1851, the court ordered that the county seat of Putnam County be permanently located on the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 5, Township 65, Range 17, and that the said county seat be called by the name of Fairplay ... (--p. 466.)
July 7, 1851, the county court met at the school house in Fair Play. At this meeting of the court the name of the county seat was changed to Hartford ... (--p. 466.)
A regular term of the county court began at Fair Play on November 3, 1851, at which time it was ordered that the circuit court be notified of the change of the county seat from Winchester to Fair Play ... the commissioner of the town of Fair Play was ordered to change the word "Hartford" to the word "Fair Play" in all certificates of those who purchased lots in Fair Play. (--p. 467.)
May 3, 1853, upon the examination of the petition for the removal of the county seat from the town of Fair Play to the geographical center of the county ... November 3, 1853, the new location had been chosen -- the north part of the west half of the southeast quarter of Section 35, Township 66, Range 19 ... (--p. 468.)
The new location was called Harmony ... The first county court began at Harmony May 1, 1854 ...
The county court met at Harmony on the 5th of February, 1855. ... And the first meeting at that place after the name was changed to Unionville was February 26, 1855. (--p. 469.)
Page numbers refer to Hist. of Putnam Co., 1888.
The first old settler's meeting held in the county was at Petty's Mill, in Liberty Township, August 26, 1882 ... At that meeting John Corneilson received the prize of $10 as the oldest settler in Putnam County, he and his daughter, Hannah Vincent, having come into the county in March, 1836 ... (--p. 423.)
If a man came on ahead of his family prospecting for a location, all that was necessary for him to secure his claim was to cut and lay down four logs in the form of a square or parallelogram representing or suggesting the foundation of a building, or of a shanty, cabin or house, mark or "blaze" a few trees, and make a few brush piles, which was sufficient to hold his claim, until such time as he could enter upon the claim thus marked and make further and more substantial improvements. Such claims were always respected ... (--p. 427.)
Thomas Hargraves built a mill on the Chariton about three miles south of the Iowa line in the summer of 1841. A Mr. Berry, probably William H., one of the sons of Joseph F. Berry, however, used for about eighteen months a steel hand mill with ten handles (capable of grinding about half a bushel of corn per day) belonging to James Cochran, who brought it from Callaway County, Mo. Before the building of Hargrave's mill, on the Chariton, a mill was put up on Shoal Creek by James Davis in 1838, near the later site of Petty's mill. Davis' mill was the first power mill built in Putnam County. It had two buhrs, run by a belt and pulley, the belt being about four inches wide, and made out of green rawhide. When Mr. Davis commenced to grind his corn, the hair came off the belt, and a good deal of it got into his meal.
Hargraves' mill was also a water power establishment. It had one pair of buhrs, which ground both wheat and corn, and was capable of grinding about fifty bushels of corn per day, or about fifteen bushels of wheat. Its bolting apparatus was run by hand. It had a saw also connected with the power, so that it was both a saw and grist mill. These were the main mill privileges of the people of Putnam County for a number of years, and when good milling was required it was necessary to go to Ottumwa or Burlington, Iowa. Later there was a giid mill erected at Nineveh, Putnam County, and finally Meek's mill was built on the Chariton. (--Hist. of Putnam Co., pp. 435, 436.)