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BY MIKE AVITT
We received a donation to the Mount Ayr Depot Museum recently. The donation consisted of documents, diplomas, land transfers, deeds, and financial statements. I saw one dated 1866. Let’s view some early history.
There is an account in the January 20, 1881 Ringgold Record newspaper about Charles Schooler, the first white settler in Ringgold County, and his son Manoah, the first white child born in what would become Ringgold County.
The article says Charles H. Schooler came to the future Ringgold County in August 1845 (Iowa became a state in 1846) believing he was in Missouri. The Iowa/Missouri border was in dispute until 1852 and School had settled less than a mile from the border as we know it today. Elam Barbour (Barber), who had helped Schooler move in 1845, joined Charles in 1846. The settlement would become known as, “Schooler’s Grove.” It was probably at this time when Schooler’s wife joined him.
In 1847 a man named Tetherow settled nearby. The land in this area came onto the market in 1854.
Not all of the article is legible but does say Manoah was born on October 24, 1847. We also know from other accounts, Mrs. Schooler was the first person buried at Ringgold Cemetery, Ringgold County’s oldest man-made site.
An article in the March 16, 1876 Ringgold Record says a judge from Taylor County oversaw the first election in Ringgold County in 1855. The voting place was the log cabin of Lott Hobbs and Charles Schooler was elected Justice of the Peace. Sanford Harrow, who founded the town of Ringgold City in 1855, was elected to the petit jury. Interestingly, a man named Edward Temple was involved with the establishment of Mount Ayr in 1855. Mr. Temple was very involved with the formation of Afton in 1854.
Before the establishment of Ringgold County in 1855, we were treated as a township of Taylor County. When our first officers were elected and Mount Ayr came into being, Taylor County paid us $1.45 in unspent revenue.
Population of the county the early years are as follows: 1856, 1472; 1859, 2507; 1860, 2923. 1863, 3039; 1865, 3089; 1867, 3888; 1869, 5028; 1870, 5691; 1873, 6850; and 1975, 7546. Ringgold County’s population in 2020 was 4663. The population really jumped when the railroads came into the area: Afton in 1869 and Leon and Bedford in 1871. Mount Ayr got the railroad in 1879.
The courthouse in this week’s photo was built in 1883-84. The first courthouse was a log cabin somewhere in the neighborhood of Polk Street and Adams. The next courthouse was built on the east side of the square in 1859 at about 104 S. Taylor. After the offices moved into the new building in 1884, the old courthouse was used for church services and office space. In November 1889, a fire struck the northeast corner of the Mount Ayr square and the first frame courthouse was lost forever.