Lamoni Has an Unusual Early History

FOUNDED AS A CHURCH COLONYIn 1879 Lamoni was platted as a town.  The first settlements had been made only a few years before.  Its age, therefore, gives it no special claims, for its neighbors are older.  It does exhibit, however, a history that is different from the average run of village chronicles, for the story of these early years runs like some “read-about-in-books” narrative.  Fifty years have left a unique story of community pioneering, religious idealism, and forward-looking spirit.


The earliest settlers had come some thirty years before the laying out of the town.  The first was a group who came from 1834 to 1840, supposing they were settling in Missouri.  In those days there was intense feeling, and marked division over the slavery issue.  Missouri was drawing several settlers because it was open to slave holding.  A number of this early band brought slaves to be held in the southern territory.  They miscalculated a few miles on the boundary, and found they could not hold slaves in the Iowa Territory.  Lamoni’s real beginnings, however, do not spring from this group.

Two unusual pioneer groups came into the early history of the section of the country.  The one was that of the refugees from Nauvoo who were moving westward and who established a camp at Garden Grove from 1826-1852 as a stopping place on the journey.  The other was the Hungarian colony at New Buda about 1851, following the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.  It had been planned to establish a large settlement and invite immigration.  Neither of these temporary colonies had permanent influence.


The county was organized April 1, 1850.  In July of that year the county seat was located at a place called Decatur, the county itself being named after Stephen Decatur, a distinguished officer in the War of 1812.  During the fall a log court house was built and soon after the county seat was moved to a town named Independence.  It happened that Iowa had another town by that name and so in 1854 by act of the legislature the name was changed to Leon.  A pretty well established county organization preceded the founding of Lamoni.

The first settlers who really influenced local history were those who came to the area now known as Pleasanton.  Shortly after 1850 the Morey, Keown, Moffet and Hinkle families moved in.  These had been members of the old Latter Day Saint Church and when in 1859 they accepted the claims of the Reorganization and effected a local organization, a new slant came into the affairs of this territory.

This excerpt taken from LAMONI The Story of a Town Established Fifty Years Ago 1879-1929.

Photo of Bank Souvenir from 1907