Monona County was organized in 1854. At the time of its organization, it had a population of 222; its population in 1860 was 832; in 1865 the population was 1,056; in 1870 it had reached 3,654, which was increased to 5,967 in 1875, and to 9,055 in 1880. Thirty-two votes were cast for Governor in the county in 1854; 134 votes were cast in 1857, and in 1859, Samuel J. Kirkwood and A.D. Dodge, Gubernatorial candidates, each received 105 votes in the county.
Charles B. Thompson was appointed the first County Judge. This was before the location of the county seat, so that the first county business was transacted at Preparation. In the autumn of 1854, the county seat was located by the commissioners appointed by the Legislature. They gave the place selected the name of Bloomfield, but there being another town of that name in the State, it was changed to Ashton. The county seat remained there until the spring of 1858, when it was removed to Onawa by a vote of the people. The following were the first county officers: Charles B. Thompson, County Judge; Guy C. Barnum, Treasurer; Hugh Lytle, Clerk; Homer C. Hoyt, Sheriff.
Monona County then embraced what is now the west range of townships of Crawford County, but the change was made in accordance with the votes of both counties in 1865. In 1860 a vote was taken on the question of the removal of the county seat from Onawa to Belvidere, and another vote was taken in 1862, on the removal to Arcola; both of which attempts, however, filed and the location of the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad may be said to have, in all probability, finally settled the question.
The first newspaper was published by “Father Ephraim” Thompson at Preparation, and was called Zion Harbinger and Weekly Messenger. Thompson also published a monthly periodical. During the continuance of this paper, it flourished under several different names, such as the Weekly News and Messenger and the Democratic Messenger. This paper was started in 1854; in 1855, Thompson published a paper called the Onawa Adventure. In November 1860, a paper was commenced at Onawa, by A. Dimmick and D.W. Butts, called the Monona Cordon. The next paper, the West Iowa Gazette, was started by Mr. Butts about the beginning of 1863, and was succeeded in 1865 by the Monona County Gazette, the first number of which was issued December 2d, 1865, F.M. Howdendobler and C.H. Aldridge being the publishers. The People’s Press made its first appearance in Onawa in 1870.
The first frame house erected in the county was built at Preparation in the summer of 1853, of materials brought from Pottawattamie County. Thomas Lewis taught the first school in the county at Preparation in the same year. In 1854 the first lumber was sawed at Preparation. Amos Chase, at the same settlement, was the pioneer blacksmith. John S. Blackburn began the making of that very palatable article, corn meal, in 1857. In 1857, a frame schoolhouse was erected in Ashton.
The first officers of Ashton Township were: Lorenzo D. Driggs, J.B. Gard, Justices of the Peace; Josiah Sumner, Isaac Ashton, J.B. Gard, Trustees; Aaron Cook, Clerk; Lorenzo Driggs, Assessor; J. Sumner, Mr. Owens, Constables.
The present county officers of Monona county are: C.H. Aldridge, Clerk; James Walker, Sheriff; John K. McCasky, Auditor; G.H. Bryant, Treasurer; M.W. Bacon, Recorder; J.B.P. Day, Surveryor; J.G. Iddings, Superintendent of Schools; G.M. Scott, E. Wilber, Fred. McClausland, Board of Supervisors.
The Sioux City & Pacific Railroad traverses the county from north to south, along its western border. A branch of the Chicago & Northwestern enters Monona County at the northeast corner, and terminates at Mapleton Station. This line is, it is presumed to be built through the county, touching Onawa, and extended into Nebraska, crossing the Missouri at Decatur. Another line, running from a point in the western part of Crawford County, through Monona County, and passing on to Sioux City, is looked forward to. This line is expected to be built by the W. & St. P. company, and will pass about ten miles east of the county seat.
The towns of Monona County are: Whiting, situated in the northwestern part, on the Sioux City & Pacific; Mapleton to the northwest; Soldier, to the southeast, and Onawa in the western part of the county.