Iowa August 04, 2019
Few People Know The Fascinating Story Behind Iowa’s Lost County
Iowa’s history is full of quirky facts, interesting tidbits, and strange moments that shaped the course of the state. If you’ve ever wondered why Iowa has 99 counties instead of 100, read the fascinating story of the lost Iowa counties below.
Today, it's a well-known bit of Iowa trivia that the state is home to 99 counties - all close in size and shape.
If you look at the map of Iowa's counties, though, one oddity stands out - Kossuth County.
Located near the Minnesota State Line, this county appears to be twice as big as most of the surrounding counties. Could it be that Kossuth County is hiding a bit of a secret?
What many people don't realize is that Kossuth was divided into two counties several times over the course of history. In 1851, Iowa divided itself into 51 counties. Bancroft County was located north of Kossuth County and extended to the Minnesota State Line. As time went on, Iowa's legislature continued to divide the state until it had 100 counties - including Bancroft.
At the time, the Bancroft County area was mostly wetlands with very little arable land for farming.
The wetlands and marshes were hard to drain, and very few people lived in the area designated as Bancroft County. If you've visited the town of Bancroft today, you would see how engineers and landscape architects have seemingly created farmland and property out of nowhere.
With Bancroft County being relatively unproductive land, the town of Algona argued that the county should be absorbed by nearby Kossuth County.
Algona was the county seat at the time, and believed that Bancroft County was mostly uninhabitable and shouldn't have legislative representation. Algona was successful, and Bancroft County was rescinded.
In 1870 another effort was made to form Iowa's 100th county - this time, named Crocker County.
Several Civil War soldiers had established homesteads on the land. Algona, again, took it to the courts and argued that Crocker wasn't large enough to be its own county. Crocker County was never officially formed.
Today, much of norther Kossuth County has been dredged, drained, and turned into farmland. One big swatch of wetlands still exists, though, and you can visit Union Slough Wildlife Refuge to see for yourself.
Walking around the refuge is a bit like stepping back in time, as this is what Iowa looked like in the 1850s!
Walk around Iowa's 100th county today and you'll find migratory birds, protected wetlands, and a diverse ecosystem.
Plan a visit to see into the past and appreciate the quirky history of the Hawkeye State.
You can learn more about Iowa’s lost county when you visit the Bancroft Museum.
Address: 404 N Portland Street, Bancroft, IA, 50517
Plan a trip to Union Slough to enjoy a walk back through time.
Address: 1710 360th Street, Titonka, IA, 50480
For more quirky Iowa history, read
12 Unusual Things You Didn’t Know About The History Of Iowa.