County In Iowa One of Few In U.S. With Two Courthouses
One county in Iowa has two county seats and two courthouses, and it's been that way for generations.
Lee County, in the very southeastern tip of Iowa, has not one courthouse, but two. It's the only one of Iowa's 99 counties that has two county seats. According to ereferencedesk, it was actually the Legislature of the Territory of Wisconsin that named Fort Madison the county seat. At least the first one. That happened way back on January 18, 1838. 183 years ago. Construction on the courthouse would be completed in early September of 1842. End of story, right? Oh, that was just the beginning.
The people of Lee County were livid throughout the process of Fort Madison being named the county seat and the courthouse being built. People argued, 'How dare you put the county courthouse nowhere near the geographic center of the county?' The people of West Point, Iowa demanded their town become the county seat, and county commissioners agreed. A courthouse would never be built there, however.
The battle would continue among Lee County towns until 1845 when Keokuk would also become the county seat. The other county seat. Yeah, neither city is exactly in the geographical center of Lee County.
The controversy still pops up every once in a while to this day but, after all these years, Lee County still has two courthouses.
As of the 2020 census, there were 3,143 counties in the 50 states in the U.S. Just over one percent, or 36 counties, have two courthouses. That's just how rare the Lee County situation is. The only other county in the entire Midwest with two courthouses is Jackson County, in Missouri.
Below is the Lee County North Courthouse in Fort Madison.
The Lee County South Courthouse in Keokuk is below.