History of the Winn-Worth Betco Region

Our region has a rich history dating back to the days where adventuring explorers and pioneers headed west to make their future. Rich farmland, grazing pastures and hunting ground greeted those who arrived and these natural assets are still important parts of our economy and tourism industry. 

History of Winnebago County

Winnebago County was named to honor the Winnebago Indian tribe that resided in the area. The county was established in 1851. The earliest white settler of Winnebago County was George W. Thomas in 1855. In the fall of 1857 Robert Clark was appointed as county judge, C.H. Day as recorder and treasurer, B.F. Denslow as the clerk of court, John S. Blowers as sheriff, and C.W. Scott as the superintendent of schools and surveyor.

The first and only county seat of Winnebago County is Forest City. Forest City was platted in 1856 by Robert Clark. It was named because of the plentiful amount of timber found in the area. The first courthouse was located on the courthouse square. It was a log cabin that consisted of two rooms until a larger building was built. This courthouse was replaced in 1896 with a Romanesque style building made of red brick and trimmed with stone constructed by Kinney & Orth and contractor F.A. Gross. At a cost of $20,496 the construction of this building was completed on January 6, 1897.

HIstory of Worth County 

Worth County was created on January 15, 1851. The county seat is in Northwood. Worth county is named for Major General William Jenkins Worth (1794-1849), an officer in both the Seminole War and the Mexican-American War.

Since the beginning of the county, there was a debate over the location of the county seat. The first two rivals were Northwood and Bristol. Their battle became so heated that at one time there was a movement to divide the county. 

Originally the thriving settlement of Bristol was the county seat, but the community of Northwood was threatening. Bristol tried to relocate the boundaries of the county, in order to put itself nearer the center of the county. This was an attempt to solidify its position as the county seat. The attempt failed, because after much litigation and contention, Northwood became the county seat in 1863. Following this, the settlement of Bristol, once the largest in the county, vanished.

The first county courthouse at Northwood was a small stone structure that was rented to the county for $3 per month. In 1865 the Board of Supervisors authorized the construction of a courthouse. Total cost of the two-story building was $1,000.

Another county seat battle occurred in 1879. This time the parties were Northwood and Kensett. Northwood remained the county seat after winning the election, 709 to 644. Following this the county built its third courthouse. Local citizens pledged $5,000 toward the courthouse - only $4,594 was used, and land was donated by the county. 

This brick building was used until 1893, when it was used as a high school, library, and city hall. Today it stands as the Worth County Historical Museum.

The current courthouse was completed in 1893. The original tower was removed, and the entire courthouse was remodeled in 1938. A Civil War cannon sits on the courthouse grounds as a monument to all veterans.

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