In which the counties of Iowa try to get back in my good graces by amusing me


Yeah, so, that thing where I was fed up with that double-stack county in Iowa last week? That’s Kossuth County and there’s stories behind it.

Map of Iowa showing the divisions for counties, which are mostly fairly uniform and nearly rectangular counties. On the northern boundary is one county, highlighted in orange, that is double the height of all the others in its row, but the same width.
Not depicted: either Armstrong County, South Dakota, the first of which was a thing from 1873 to 1879 in what’s now southeast South Dakota and the second of which was a thing from 1883 through 1952 in the central part of South Dakota, because South Dakota has got not much to do with Iowa apart from sharing letters such as ‘a’ and ‘o’.

So Kossuth County had been the lower half of this. In 1857 it absorbed the northern county, Bancroft County, because it turned out the whole area was wetlands and it wasn’t any good for farming. That’s all fine and that’s like the first joke I would make about it. But you know what they say about never using your first joke about something? (They say don’t use your first joke about something.) Well, in 1870 they (Iowa) carved a county out of the northern part of that again. They didn’t just call it Bancroft County II: The Secret Of Curly’s Ooze, though. They named it Crocker County. And this didn’t work because it turned out Iowa’s constitution prohibited the creation of any new counties smaller than 432 square miles, and Crocker County was, so the Iowa Supreme Court voided it the next year. Anyway, 1871: bad year for the Paris Commune and north-central Iowan counties.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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