History of Kossuth County Iowa
Welcome to Kossuth County, Iowa's largest county. Here you will discover our greatest asset—our people. We offer you old-fashioned Iowa hospitality and we are eager to show you our beautiful towns and countryside. We have a rich history and offer many special attractions throughout our communities. We feel our lifestyle here in the heart of America is one to be envied, one we treasure and are delighted to share with you.
Kossuth on State
The Third General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature established Kossuth County, Iowa, on January 15, 1851. Kossuth County was named in honor of Lajos (Louis) Kossuth, the Hungarian Patriot and Statesman who had dedicated his life to freedom and liberty for his country. Kossuth’s exploits to free his country in 1848-1849 stirred the emotions of the people of the United States and his struggle for freedom was the reason that the Iowa Legislature felt that it would be fitting to name a newly created county in his honor. Kossuth County, Iowa, has the distinction of being the only county in the United States named Kossuth.
In the early months of 1999, Kossuth County Courthouse Department Heads met with the Kossuth County Board of Supervisors to discuss plans to commemorate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the establishment of Kossuth County. In September of 1999, the department heads once again met with the board of supervisors to discuss ideas for the 150th anniversary celebration. It was decided at that time that a volunteer committee should be formed and that they should work with the Kossuth County Historical Society to develop a project for the 150th anniversary celebration.
A call for volunteers was made at that time and the 150th Anniversary Committee was formed. After just a few meetings, the committee decided that a life-size bronze statue of Lajos Kossuth, placed in front of the courthouse, would be the ideal project that would satisfy the goals that had been established by the committee. It was envisioned that the statue would be placed on a granite base and would be surrounded by a patio area composed of engraved bricks and granite pavers, which would be sold to fund the project.
The committee decided that the patio area directly in front of the statue would be laid out in the shape of a map of Kossuth County. Each township would be clearly defined with its township name on a granite paver located in the center of the township and each town in the county would be clearly marked in its correct location on the map with a granite paver inscribed with the name of the town and the date the town was established. There would also be an area surrounding the statue with spaces for larger engraved granite pavers as well as bricks and smaller granite pavers. The idea of the map layout was to allow people, families, business, organizations, etc. to purchase engraved bricks or pavers and have them placed within the township near the location of their farms or near the town where they lived. This would give everyone an opportunity to be a part of the project and it would truly be a countywide project.
The committee then contacted local award winning artist, Wayne Thompson of rural Swea City, Iowa, to see if he would be interested in creating a bronze statue of Lajos Kossuth.Mr. Thompson was very receptive to the idea and told the committee that he would be most willing to create the statue.
On December 7, 1999 the 150th Anniversary Committee once again met with the Kossuth County Board of Supervisors to present the proposed historic statue project to the board and to request initial start up funding. The board of supervisors gave their enthusiastic support to the project and voted to grant the startup funding. With the favorable support and encouragement given by the board of supervisors, the committee was able to move the project forward and begin the fund raising that would be required.
After the December 7th meeting the committee commissioned Wayne Thompson to create the statue of Kossuth. It was at that time that “Kossuth on State” was chosen to be the name of the project. This name was chosen to symbolize the statue of Lajos Kossuth, located in front of the courthouse, facing State Street. Hence the name “ Kossuth on State”.
The committee immediately applied for various grant programs and was successful in obtaining a grant in the amount of $7,800 from the Iowa Arts Council and $5,000 from the Haggard - Twogood Charitable Trust, which along with the funds received from the Board of Supervisors got the project off to a running start. The early support from all of the towns and townships in the county was also very important in assuring the success of the project.
"Kossuth on State" is a life-sized bronze sculpture of the Hungarian Patriot, Lajos Kossuth, which has been placed on the front lawn of the Kossuth County Courthouse on State Street in Algona, Iowa. The sculpture was created and cast by award winning local Kossuth County artist, Wayne Thompson, of Swea City, Iowa. The dedication of the sculpture coincided with the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Kossuth County.
The sculpture was placed on a solid granite base approximately four feet square and four feet in height. A bronze plaque with a brief history of Lajos Kossuth was placed on the base of the statue.
Patio stone and paving brick surround the base of the statue. The patio area directly in the front of the statue is laid out in the shape of a map of Kossuth County. Each township is clearly defined and a granite paver is placed in the center of each township with the township name. Each town in the county is marked in its correct location on the map with a granite paver inscribed with the name of the town and date the town was established. Within the interior of each township are spaces for engraved 4" x 8" bricks and 8" x 8" granite pavers. The area around the base of the statue are spaces for 8" x 12" and 8" x 16" granite pavers.
A final extra touch to the project is the placement of solid granite benches on the perimeter of the patio area.
The "Kossuth on State" project was sanctioned by the Kossuth County Board of Supervisors who accepted the sculpture for placement on the grounds of the Kossuth County Courthouse. Initial funding for this project came from the Board of Supervisors and also from a grant from the Iowa Arts Council. The remainder of the project was from donations and sales of the engraved bricks and granite pavers.
The sculpture was dedicated at the county-wide ceremony and celebration with the Hungarian and Iowa Officials as well as Local Officials from throughout the County were in attendance. The dedication was July 13th, 2001.
Who was Lajos Kossuth?
Lajos Kossuth, also known as Louis Kossuth, was born on September 19, 1802 in Monok, Hungary. At that time Hungary was a part of the Austrian Empire ruled by the Habsburg Dynasty. Kossuth was born in modest circumstances, although his father was a member of the gentry. Young Lajos, following his father’s profession, became an attorney and began his career as an agent for a local wealthy noblewoman.
In 1832 he was designated a substitute to represent a local noble in the Hungarian Diet (national parliament). Kossuth, a prolific writer and editor, produced a record of the Diet’s proceeding as well as other newspapers and journals. In 1837, his advocacy of political reform and national independence led to his imprisonment for three years by the Austrian government. During his confinement, he taught himself English by studying the Bible and Shakespeare.
After his release from prison in 1840, Kossuth became the editor of the “Pesti Hirlap,” or Pest Journal. The Pest Journal advocated political reform and an independent legislature for Hungary. In 1847 Kossuth was elected to the Diet as a representative of the county of Pest. Kossuth continued to spread his liberal ideas and made brilliant speeches demanding a constitution for Hungary. In 1848, Kossuth’s campaigns and demands earned Hungary its own separate constitution from Austria. After the new government was formed, Kossuth was named the Minister of Finance. Shortly thereafter, revolution broke out across Europe. On September 28, 1848, after five months of serving as the minister of Finance, he assumed full control of the revolution in Hungary. He gathered, strengthened, and armed his “revolutionary army.” Not satisfied with their autonomous constitution, he demanded his county’s independence from Austrian rule. In the spring of 1849, Kossuth rallied against the Habsburg monarchy. On April 14, 1849, the Hungarian Diet, inspired by Kossuth, proclaimed the complete independence of Hungary from Austria and deposed the Habsburg Dynasty. The Hungarian declaration of independence was influenced by the American document. At the same time the Diet elected Kossuth “governor-president” and charged him to render an account of his actions to the parliament. Hungary was the last bastion of the democratic revolutions of 1848 to remain standing against the forces of absolutism, and Hungarian developments were carefully followed with considerable sympathy by the governments and people of Europe and the United States.
The inability of the Austrian government to reestablish its authority was a great concern to the autocratic government of Russia. Czar Nicholas I offered to aid the Austrians in suppressing the Hungarian revolution and that offer was accepted by the Austrians. As a result the Russian imperial forces, allies to the Austrians, declared war on the Hungarian Republic. The Russian armies brought the revolution to a quick and bloody end.
After his defeat, Kossuth fled to Turkey where he spent two years in exile. The governments of Great Britain, The United States, and other West European nations successfully pressured the Turkish Sultan to refuse Austrian and Russian demands for Kossuth’s extradition. They were able to arrange for his departure from Turkey, and on September 10, 1851, he steamed from the Turkish port of Smyrna (now Izmir) aboard the U. S. Navy’s frigate Mississippi. After brief stops in France and Britain, he arrived in New York City on December 5, 1851, to great public acclaim. His triumphant six-month tour throughout the United States was an unprecedented popular success.
Although Kossuth did not achieve his goal of winning official United States government support and recognition for continuing his struggle for Hungarian independence, his visit did leave a permanent legacy in America. He gave several hundred speeches in all parts of the United States, including separate addresses to both Houses of Congress. During this tour 250 poems, dozens of books, hundreds of pamphlets, and thousands of editorials were written about him and his democratic ideals.
He left the United States after six months, returning to Europe in July 1852 to rally support for the Hungarian cause. He lived for a period of time in London, and eventually settled in Turin, Italy. In exile he continued his efforts for Hungarian independence, but he did not return to Hungary.
Following his death in Turin on March 20, 1894, his body was returned to Hungary, where he was buried amid nationwide mourning. After his death, Kossuth continued as the popular symbol of the aspiration of the Hungarian people for independence.
Today there are many reminders of Kossuth’s impact on the Unites States of America. There are towns with his name in Indiana, Ohio and Mississippi, and a settlement with a Post office in Pennsylvania. Previous to today there were two other full figure Kossuth statues in the United States, in New York City, New York and Cleveland, Ohio.
And, of course, there is Kossuth County, Iowa where the impact of Kossuth is noted through out the county with the name Kossuth appearing on buildings and streets in all parts of the county. Kossuth County now has the third full figure statue of Lajos Kossuth in the United States. The statue of Lajos Kossuth, being dedicated today, is not only a reminder of the Hungarian struggle for independence but it is also a reminder of our own United States democracy that Lajos Kossuth idealized so much.