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Centerville City

Centerville City Hall is located at 312 East Maple Street, Centerville, IA 52544; phone: 641-437-4339.

Beginnings [1]

The county was officially organized in 1846 and the way paved for the election of County Commissioners. One of the many tasks of these commissioners was to locate the seat of justice for the county. The early settlers were aware that the new counties were to be of common size and that the county seat was to be as close to the center of the geographic area as possible. Therefore it came as no surprise when, in October 1846, the Commissioners located the seat of justice at the present site. Early records show that it was originally called Chaldea. (The name "Chaldea" had been given by J.F. Stratton, but within a few weeks another early settler, the Rev. Manson, suggested that the name be changed to "Senterville" in honor of Governor Senter of Tennessee. Manson's arguments were so strong as to sway to the voters present, and he sent a petition to the Legislature, along with voters' signatures, requesting the change in name. The Legislature had no problem with the change, but felt that Mr. Manson's spelling was in error and "corrected" the name to read "Centerville.")

The day after the location was selected by the Commissioners, J.F. Stratton, County Surveyor (and also Clerk of the District Court) laid out and platted the town, according to a plan he had already drawn. Like many towns which existed on paper before becoming fact, this plat featured N/S and E/W streets laid out in a grid pattern, with a public square. In the case of Chaldea however, the public square was not located in the middle of the town, but near the southwest corner. Another curious feature of Stratton's plan was the size of the public square. It measured two blocks in each direction, making the square almost four times as large as commonly found. In addition to the unusual size of the Square, Stratton designed the major N/S and E/W streets (Main and State) to enter the Square in the middle of the Square rather than on the corners, thus making it difficult to drive directly through this area. Main and State streets are each 70' wide, while the corner streets measure only 33'. (Years later citizens of Centerville would continue to complain about the narrow entrances from the corner streets.) So far no documentation has been located as to why Stratton selected this unusual form for the square. A survey presently being conducted by Tom Schmiedler of Northwest Missouri State University may provide additional information about this type of town plan.

On February 1, 1847, the Board of Commissioners approved the plat, ordered it recorded, and appointed George W. Perkins (one of the Commissioners) to sell one quarter of the lots facing the public square, and one quarter of the residential lots. He was also to advertise that another quarter of each type would be sold on April 1, 1847. Perkins was one of the first to settle in Center Township, having located near the future county seat in 1841. He was active in the development of both the county and the town, serving not only on the Board of Commissioners but also as the first postmaster.

The first store in the township was opened by Spencer Wadlington northeast of the present town. After the town was platted, the first building erected was said to have been a cabin for James Wright early in 1847. Commercial development around the Centerville Square appears to have started when Wadlington moved his log cabin store into town and placed it on the west side of the Square, now the southwest corner of State and 12th. In this cabin was held the first term of the district court.

  1. Molly Myers Naumann, consultant, Centerville Historic Preservation Commission, Architectural and Historical Resources of Centerville, Iowa, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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