Cities, Towns, Villages
Osceola; Polk; Shelby; Stromsburg
Members of the Territorial Legislature established a series of county boundaries along the Platte River on Jan. 26, 1856. At the time Polk County was part of a larger Butler County. Fourteen years later, a special election resulted in the creation of the present day Polk County, named after the 11th president of the United States, James Knox Polk.
When the county was organized in 1870, there was no county seat or courthouse. Each county official who had been elected at an August election conducted county business from his residence.
In October 1871, county residents voted to make the settlement of Osceola the county seat. County commissioners approved the construction of a frame courthouse and took possession of the building when it was completed in 1872. Unfortunately, the courthouse was destroyed by fire nine years later and many of the county's documents were lost.
One year after the destructive fire, a new courthouse was opened. The brick building, which cost $10,000, became a source of pride for county residents. With the publicity the courthouse received when it opened in 1882, it was soon being visited by people from outside the county. In fact, an excursion train was run from David City in neighboring Butler County to bring visitors to see the new building.
As the 20th century began, like so many other counties in the state, Polk County found itself outgrowing its courthouse. So in 1922 the present courthouse was constructed. The three-story building was an architectural landmark. Around a steel reinforced frame was built a modern renaissance exterior that featured terra cotta trim. The interior of the building was highlighted with marble stairs and wainscoting.
Polk County was developed as an agricultural area. Despite severe storms, blizzards and an infestation of grasshoppers in the 1870s and 1880s, those who made a living off the land persevered. That same hearty spirit is prevalent today as the county's economy is based primarily on family farming and livestock production.