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Dodge County Seat Removal, 1884

“There is no necessity for any bad blood over the county seat controversy,” said the Fremont Weekly Herald on August 21, 1884, in referring to a “re-location scheme” that proposed to remove the county seat from Fremont to a more central location within Dodge County. The plan was to establish the county seat of government in “a tract of land in Section 31, Town 19, Range 7, in Everett precinct,” at a location called Centerville, which it was hoped, would grow into a prosperous city. According to the Herald, the move was prompted partly by a recent storm that had damaged the roof of the courthouse in Fremont. Dodge County commissioners responded to a petition asking for removal by submitting the question to the voters in an election held on September 9, 1884.



Of course, Fremont newspapers opposed removal of the county seat from Fremont. The Fremont Weekly Tribune on August 27 published reasons for the voters to reject the removal proposal: “First: The jail is now in Fremont. To build a new one will cost from $15,000 to $20,000, which would have to be built in case of removal of the county seat. Second: To remove it to Centerville would operate to the injury of Scribner, Hooper, North Bend and Fremont, in cutting off trade which now goes to these places should Centerville, as a county seat, develop into a large town.” In addition, it was maintained that Dodge County could not support more than one large town such as Fremont, which was entitled to special consideration because its residents paid one quarter of the taxes in the county.



The Weekly Herald on August 28 discussed a recent county seat fight in Clay County and warned that Dodge County’s proposal to create a new, more centrally located seat of government could have similar results. “The county seat of Clay county . . . was located at Clay Center, the geographical center of the county, five years ago, after a long and bitter fight, as a compromise between the rival towns of the county. Three years later it had a smaller population than any other precinct in the county, . . . It has no railroad to this day, and when court is held there, most of those attending drive over to Harvard or Fairfield to stay over night, . . . This is the outcome of a bitter and nonsensical county seat contest, in which every town was jealous of the other, and upon which the only compromise was possible by leaving them all out.”



The Herald said: “These are some of the disadvantages and positive injustice from the making of a city [such as Centerville in Dodge County] by law. Suppose they should vote away the capital of the U.S. from Washington and locate it on an island in the Platte river-that would be about the geographical center of the United States as near as we can figure it. Would there be any justice or reason in it?”



Apparently the voters of Dodge County agreed with the Herald. They voted on September 9, 1884, to retain the county seat at Fremont by some 1,800 votes out of 3,000.

 

The Dodge County Courthouse in Fremont, dedicated October 4, 1890, replaced an older brick structure in use in 1884 during the county seat removal controversy. From USGenWeb Archives

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