Trails to the Past


Story County



Trails to the Past of Iowa is accepting any donations of genealogy materials that you may have such as marriage announcements, news articles, old obituaries, births, (you do not need the birth certificate) just the information, and biographies.  If you have any of these items please contact me Marie Miller the Iowa State Administrator.

Story County
The land that today is known as Story County was originally prairie with the exception of some groves along the larger streams in the area. In 1846 the boundaries of Story County were established. The County has an area of 576 square miles  and is square in shape.

The county was named after Joseph Story, a preeminent United States Supreme Court Justice, in 1853. The first settlers to the area came from Indiana, then from the New England states of New York and Pennsylvania. Later, many Norwegians, Germans and Danes came directly from overseas and inhabited the area. The first large population influx occurred during the 1850s. Story County was not mentioned in the Federal Census in 1850, but figures from the State of Iowa put the population at 214 in 1852. By 1860 the population had increased to 4,501.

Three commissioners were appointed by the Iowa legislature to determine the county seat location. On June 27, 1853, they announced Nevada as their choice. Nevada (pronounced Nuh-VAY-Dah) was named after the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. Like many Midwestern towns, cities and counties, many prominent locations from the newly explored West and Mexican-American War of the late 1840s inspired the naming of towns and counties in Iowa during this period.

Railroad construction did more to develop Story County than any other single factor. The first railroad came to the county in 1864. Railroads were such a decisive factor in determining the location of towns that several communities in Story County moved to be closer to the rail line. Some flourishing little towns that were bypassed by the railroad soon disappeared. Although Nevada was long the population center of the county, Ames was the most widely known of the towns because of the busy railroad depot where travelers would transfer to their next train.

Story County has had five courthouses. The first, a two-level frame building, was erected in 1856. Fire destroyed it in 1863, and it was replaced by a similar structure, which was replaced by a larger three-level building in 1877, situated on the town square. This building's tower served as a vantage point to view the countryside; it was eventually removed for safety reasons. The fourth courthouse was built in 1967 and placed in service on May 18, 1968. That building is still in use as offices for the Board of Supervisors, Auditor, Treasurer, Recorder, Assessor, Information Technology, Facilities Management, Health and Planning & Development Offices. A cannon from the Civil War rests on the lawn. The current courthouse, the Story County Justice Center, opened in 2002. It houses the Justice Center, comprising the law enforcement and judicial aspects of Story County Government. The Story County Sheriff's Office, Attorney, and Clerk of Court are all housed in this building.

On Line Data

    Story City
Unincorporated communities

    Indian Creek
    New Albany

Cambridge, Iowa

Adjacent counties
    Hamilton County (northwest)
    Hardin County (northeast)
    Marshall County (east)
    Jasper County (southeast)
    Polk County (south)
    Boone County (west)


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