Historical Marker in
Jefferson County, Iowa

The Iowa State Fair, one of the largest and oldest state fairs in the country, was first held in 1854 in Fairfield, Iowa. Today, it is held in Des Moines and attracts more than a million visitors each year.
Jefferson County, Iowa has a rich history that spans thousands of years. Before European settlers arrived, several Native American tribes, including the Fox and Sac, occupied the region. They relied on farming, hunting, and trading along the des Moines River.

The area was first surveyed by government officials in the early 1830s as part of the Black Hawk Purchase. Shortly after, in 1839, Jefferson County was established, named after Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. The county's seat, Fairfield, was founded in the same year and became an important center for trade and commerce due to its location on the Des Moines River.

During the 1850s and 1860s, the county experienced a rapid influx of settlers, mainly from Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. These new residents established farms, built homes, and developed a thriving agricultural economy. The arrival of the railroad in the late 1860s further boosted the county's growth and facilitated transportation of goods.

In the early 20th century, Jefferson County faced a series of challenges, including economic downturns and natural disasters. However, the community displayed resilience and adaptability. In recent years, the county has experienced growth and development, with an emphasis on preserving its historic downtown and promoting cultural and recreational activities.

Overall, Jefferson County's history is characterized by the exploration and settlement of the region by Native Americans, the establishment of a vibrant farming community, and the ability to overcome adversity and continue to thrive in the face of challenges.

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

  • 1819: Jefferson County is established by the Iowa Territorial Legislature.
  • 1839: Fairfield is named the county seat of Jefferson County.
  • 1846: Fairfield is incorporated as a city.
  • 1851: The Iowa constitution is adopted, officially making Iowa a state.
  • 1852: The first courthouse in Jefferson County is completed.
  • 1855: The Fairfield Female Seminary, later known as Parsons College, is founded.
  • 1861-1865: Jefferson County residents serve in the American Civil War.
  • 1871: The Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway is completed, connecting Fairfield to major rail lines.
  • 1893: The Carnegie Public Library is built in Fairfield, funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie.
  • 1907: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructs the Lock and Dam No. 18 on the Des Moines River.
  • 1948: The Jefferson County Historical Society is founded.
  • 1967: The Maharishi International University, later known as Maharishi University of Management, is established in Fairfield.
  • 1970s: Fairfield becomes a center for the Transcendental Meditation movement.
  • 1984: Fairfield holds its first annual Fairfield Art Walk.