Iowa is known for its agricultural production, but did you know that it was once a major producer of coal? In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Iowa had more than 200 coal mines, and coal was the state's leading industry.
Benton County, Iowa, named after the renowned senator Thomas Hart Benton, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, primarily the Meskwaki tribe, who hunted and fished along the Cedar River. European settlers began arriving in the early 1840s, attracted by the fertile soil and the opportunities offered by the newly established Territory of Iowa.

In 1843, the county was officially organized, and it quickly became an agricultural hub. Farmers from the East and Europe were drawn to Benton County for its fertile land, and the county soon became known for its corn and livestock production. The construction of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Minnesota Railroad in the late 1850s further facilitated trade and transportation, contributing to the county's growth.

The county played a significant role in the Civil War, with many residents volunteering to serve in the Union Army. Benton County established its first courthouse in 1853, but it was destroyed by fire in 1867. A new courthouse was built in 1907 and is still in use today, a testament to the county's enduring history.

Throughout the 20th century, Benton County continued to evolve and adapt to changing times. The agricultural industry remained a cornerstone of the county's economy, but manufacturing and other industries also emerged. Today, Benton County is home to charming small towns, vibrant communities, and a thriving agricultural sector while preserving its ties to the past through historical landmarks and museums.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Benton County, Iowa.

  • 1837 - Benton County is established.
  • 1849 - The first courthouse is constructed.
  • 1855 - The county seat is moved to Vinton.
  • 1862 - The Benton County Fair is first held.
  • 1869 - The first railroad reaches Benton County.
  • 1884 - The current courthouse is built in Vinton.
  • 1900 - The population of Benton County reaches its peak at 19,554.
  • 1936 - The Iowa Hospitality State Training School opens in Vinton.
  • 1947 - The Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District is formed.
  • 1975 - The Wapsipinicon Mill Museum opens in Independence.
  • 2008 - The historic downtown district of Vinton is added to the National Register of Historic Places.