About Lee County

Map of Iowa highlighting Lee CountyLee County is very unique because it has two county seats, Fort Madison and Keokuk. Lee county has a population of approximately 39,017 people.

One of the county seats is Fort Madison. Fort Madison Iowa is a community of approximately 11,618. It is a business-oriented city with many historical landmarks. Over the last two centuries, Fort Madison has established itself as a center of trade of industry, retail, and tourism. The community of Fort Madison offers a compelling quality of life to all who choose to settle here. Descendants of those people have built a strong, modern community with all the "good things" in life - arts, recreations and entertainment, quality health care, friendly shopping, breathtaking scenery, and a crime rate so low it's practically non-existent.

The 1990 census sets Fort Madison's population at just under 12,000. Rural residents outside the city limits boost that figure to over 30,000. Fort Madison area offers a variety of retail shopping experiences for consumers. Many businesses are locally owned, assuring you of the finest merchandise at competitive prices, with the kind of "first name basis" customer service available only in a community our size. Students in Fort Madison's public and parochial school systems are representative of Iowa's first-in-the-nation status in education. The community is dedicated to providing the finest education for our young people.

Truly a city in a garden, Fort Madison maintains seven lovely city parks and recreation areas including the 250 acre Rodeo Park and the city's crown jewel, Riverview Park, which provides access to the Mississippi. Lee County maintains several nearby parks, lakes, and recreation areas, and Shimek State Forest, Iowa's largest is located a few miles away. The City Parks and Recreation Department, and the YMCA offer year round programs of activities for all ages, including swimming, at our new municipal pool, and indoors at the YMCA.

Keokuk, the other county seat, is situated on the banks of the rolling Mississippi River. It is a community of about 13,000 friends and neighbors. With its scenic beauty and traditional family values, Keokuk provides the favorable amenities of a small town, along with easy access to larger metro areas. With numerous professional, recreational and social opportunities, along with the absence of "big city" hassles, it's no wonder Iowa and the Midwest have become the place of choice for many families looking to relocate.

Keokuk plays a vital role as one of the tri-state area's economic engines. Diversity is the key to the region's economic base. Manufacturers are situated throughout the region and the service sector has experienced tremendous growth. This strategic location to the Midwestern metropolitan areas, enhanced and supported by a fully developed intermodal transportation system make the tri-state area a first choice for industry.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that Iowa ranks first among the ten Midwestern states in worker productivity, while Iowans are a full 20% more productive than the national average. This strong Midwestern work ethic, along with "business friendly" tax laws, a wide array of state and local financial incentives, easy access to transportation and many natural resources, are just a few of the reasons why the roster and size of companies located in Keokuk, continues to grow.



  • Keokuk was once the home of cowboy actor John Wayne.
  • Keokuk was also home to New York Yankee greats Roger Maris and Jack Saltzgaver.
  • Keokuk is the home of the first national cemetery West of the Mississippi and the only one in Iowa.
  • One of the first buildings erected in what was to become later Keokuk was the American Fur Company's Trading Post.
  • By 1830 the settlement could count seventeen buildings and three dozen or so inhabitants.
  • 1849 saw the establishment of the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
  • Keokuk was once home to a young Samuel Langhorne Clemens.
  • Teddy Roosevelt visited Keokuk three times. He made a speech during the "Bull Moose" campaign of 1912.
  • The 1990 census listed a population of 12,451 residents, making it the largest community in Lee County.

Fort Madison

  • The fort was home to the 1st Regiment U.S. Infantry from 1808-1813.
  • Richard Chaney moved from Keokuk to Prison Creek and both men's claim to the land overlapped and they fought about it. Soldiers from Fort Des Moines intervene.
  • John Knapp and Nathaniel Knapp built their cabins in the fort and used the well that was used by the inhabitants of the fort. They opened trade with the Indians.
  • By fall of 1835 there were four cabins that composed the settlement and those settlers named it Madison.
  • The "Fort" part of the name was added because Wisconsin Territory already had a Madison and then it made it easier to receive their mail by horseback.
  • The rails reached Fort Madison in 1859 when tracks were laid from here to Viele.
  • Was home to a subdued and aging Chief Blackhawk.
  • The population of the city in 1990 was 11, 618.

West Point

  • Whitaker was one of the first settlers in the year 1834.
  • Sold claim to John L. Cotton and John Howell. They in turn sold it to Abraham Hunsicker.
  • It acquired the temporary name of "Cotton Town."
  • The first public sales of lots was held in September of 1836.
  • Location of the County Seat in 1843.
  • In 1879, economic boost with the completion of the Fort Madison and Northwestern Railroad line.
  • It reached its peak population of 1333 making it the largest inland town in the county. The 1990 census listed the population as 1,079.


  • In1836 three men settled here from New England and they were: Timothy Fox, Curtis Shedd, and Lewis Epps.
  • The settlement had earned the nickname of "The Haystack"
  • Housed the Denmark Academy established in 1843.
  • Was an extremely active station on the Underground Railroad.
  • Gained fame through the establishment of the Denmark Dairy Association in 1875. Products from its plant took first place awards at the St. Louis Fair for the years 1875, 1876, and 1877.
  • The 1990 census lists the population of the town and the Denmark Township at 869 residents.


  • Lee County Fair was settled here in 1878

Other Towns in Lee County:

Once there were thirty towns located in the county. They were places with such intriguing names as Ambrosia, Mooar, Camackville, Tuscarora, Belfast, Monterey, Nashville, String Prairie, Camargo, Jollyville, La Crew, Warren, Dover, Jeffersonville, White Lane, Viele, and Hinsdale. A drawing or two in old history books is all that remains of these towns.

Other small communities have either followed or shrunk so much that they disappeared from all but large scale maps. They are recognizable now as a cluster of dwellings and cling to their historic name for ease of identification. Such places as Summitville, Croton, Sandusky, New Boston, Argyle, Mt. Hamill, Vincennes, South Augusta, and Sawyer.