Sac County, located in the northwest quadrant of Iowa, offers a wide array of agricultural resources, beautiful topography, and cultural activities for the more than 10,000 residents who inhabit the 578 square miles within the county borders. Prior to becoming a county in 1851, the area was home to the Fox and Sauk (Sac) Native Americans, after whom the county and city of Sac City were named.
The county’s rich agricultural soil was, in large part, due to glacial deposits. The Wisconsin glacier covered the eastern part of the county, creating the natural drainage divide that bisects the county and sends water either to the Missouri or Mississippi Rivers. The glacier also created Black Hawk Lake, the southernmost glacial lake in Iowa. The allure of farming was a major attraction for settlers who began to come to Sac County in the 1850’s. Land prices of $3 an acre or less made settling the area affordable. Traveling by ox cart was most common for settlers. Building a residence on the property was a requirement for new property owners. D. Carr Early, one of Sac County’s first residents, walked 90 miles to register claims for himself and a friend while the friend built a house that straddled the border of the adjacent properties they had claimed.
This hardy stock of residents spread the word that the Sac County was a vibrant land of opportunity. By 1860, 246 people called Sac County home. Ten years later, the population had grown to 1411. The 1900 census showed the county population burgeoning to 17,639 residents.
Sac City the oldest community in the county, was founded in 1855 and named the county seat in 1856. As the population increased, numerous towns sprang up throughout the county. Today, there are nine incorporated communities in Sac County.
One of the first steps to transform the virgin prairie into arable farmland was to survey the land and create a layout for property lines. John F. Duncombe of Fort Dodge helped plat the county which was divided into square mile sections with occasional correction lines to account for the earth’s curvature. As residents moved to the county and rural residents needed nearby shopping and places to market crops, the communities of Auburn, Early, Lake View, Lytton, Nemaha, Odebolt, Schaller and Wall Lake began to flourish.
The county is home to parks, homes, libraries and depots and a hotel that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to hundreds of small farms, Sac County was home to the Adams Ranch and the Cook Ranch (sometimes known as Bonanza farms). These two large operations laid the foundation for agricultural practices that continue to shape modern farming.
(History adapted from Bruce Perry’s Sac County, © 2020 Arcadia Press)