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  Webster County

Date of Origin - 1857

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Webster County is a combination of two counties: Yell and Risley. Late in the fall of 1852, the citizens of both counties petitioned the Legislature to combine both counties into one county; and on December 1, 1852, the Legislature passed an Act that did just that. The county was named in honor of the American statesman Daniel Webster or the indigenous Iowa Indian tribe.

In 1853 a commission was appointed to locate a county seat for the newly formed Webster County, and the site they chose was named Homer. The land was owned by the government, but the county officers took possession of it and had it "run out" into town lots. It was not until October 14, 1854 that the county obtained title to the land.

The first courthouse was built in Homer, and the first court was held in Homer. Homer was a thriving and growing community of 600, so when the smaller community of Fort Dodge challenged them for the county seat, they gave it little concern. An election was held, and Fort Dodge came out on top by 13 votes. Illegal voting and ballot-box stuffing was involved, but records were so bad that the election was never contested.

After the county seat was officially moved to Fort Dodge, a courthouse was needed there. An election was held, and, by a majority of 199 votes, it was decided that a courthouse would be built. The building cost $39,450, and it was constructed by A. V. Lambert of Fort Dodge. The cornerstone was laid on May 8, 1859. The current courthouse was officially dedicated on September 12, 1902.

The 99th anniversary celebration of the Webster County Courthouse on Sept. 14, 2001 marked the end of the two decades and millions of dollars spent to blend the charm of the past with functional requirements of the future. The remodeling project was funded by a tax levy equaling 2 mills or two-tenths of a penny. Courthouse repairs and specification plans began in 1980 when the jail was removed from the courthouse and located in the Law Enforcement Center at a cost of $98,780. The process of cleaning and repairing the limestone exterior of the building was started in 1985 due to reported "popouts" or holes caused by moisture. The copper clock tower was also restored at this time, the outside atrium skylight was replaced and flat or sloped roof areas were replaced. The price of the exterior restoration done within that year totaled more than $300,000.

With the outside refurbished to reflect its original stateliness, the idea of refinishing the inside of the courthouse took root in the minds of county officials. The next four phases of indoor renovation updated and renewed the working spaces of county offices, departments and courtrooms. The cost of the first four phases of renovation were funded with nearly $1.7 million in property tax reserves set aside in the county budget. Each phase was completed between four and eight months, ultimately taking a total of 10 years to be totally finished.

The final phase of renovation was aimed at renovating the second and third floors as well as bringing the courthouse into compliance with the American Disabilities Act. This last portion of work contained the most expensive undertakings in the project and was funded by a $2.5 million bond issue approved by county voters in November 1996. The grand total of renovating the courthouse so that it reflected its prestigious past while accommodating its future needs equaled nearly $4.3 million and was a labor that took more than 20 years to complete.

After the completion of the remodeling, on September 14, 2001, Webster County held a rededication of the Webster County Courthouse. The rededication was planned and presented by the Webster County Board of Supervisors, the Webster County Historical Society and the Fort Dodge Dragoons. It was well attended by the public and tours were conducted throughout the day.

Sources:
Clarke, S. J. History of Hamilton and Webster County, vol.1 , 1912
Alan Wooters, Former Deputy Count
y Auditor

 
     

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