Delaware County was established in 1837 when Dubuque County was divided into multiple smaller counties. Elected Delaware County commissioners were directed to select a county seat. Ead’s Grove was the first selected area, located in the Northeast part of the Delaware Township, but not for long. Many residents requested a county seat site closer to the geographical center of the county, now the present town of Delaware.
With no luck there due to the lack of timber and water, the commissioners chose a site near Silver Lake, which later became the City of Delhi. While looking for a site, as
the committee approached Delhi, a deer suddenly sprang up and ran off. It was suggested they shoot the deer and stake a site at that location, and that’s exactly what was done. Four long years passed before the county could raise the money to purchase the land for the county seat. Two residents loaned the county $200 to purchase the land.
To repay the residents, Delaware County sold county orders at 50 cents on the dollar. In the winter of 1843-1844, a hickory log courthouse was built and was the first building erected in the county seat of Delhi. A new courthouse was built in the 1850’s, but soon became too small for county business. In 1857, a $5,000 two-story brick county building was constructed.
The architecture was very unique and said to “resemble some battlements of the feudal ages without possessing any of their beauty or grandeur.” A battle over the county seat developed between Manchester and Delhi, leading to several elections. Manchester lost all but one, which was the final election held on November 2nd, 1880.
Following that election, the citizens of Manchester quickly constructed a temporary two-story frame courthouse complete with a vault. A more elaborate, red brick building was constructed in 1894, costing $36,860 to build, plus $800 for plumbing. In 1895, 700 citizens of Delaware County bought the clock placed in the tower.
This courthouse, the fourth for Delaware County, was dedicated on January 7th, 1895.