Keokuk is named after a famous Sac Indian Chief. The name means "Watchful Fox" or "He Who Has Been Everywhere". Chief Keokuk advocated peace with the white settlers. Indians that dwelt in this area were the Sac and Fox tribes.
Keokuk County was opened up for settlement in May 1843 and the organization of Keokuk County began in 1844. Before this time the county was attached to Washington County. The location of the county seat of justice was a source of controversy. The southeastern portion of the county was the first to be settled so the people there felt that the county seat should be located in the center of the population distribution rather than in the geographical center. The debate over the county seat location continued throughout the years. After lengthy discussions the commissioners moved the official location of the county seat to the town of Sigourney in 1856. Sigourney was named after the author and poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney. She showed her appreciation by providing the trees which were planted on the courthouse grounds, and presenting fifty volumes to the town library.
First School of Keokuk County
The first school of the county was taught in a schoolhouse constructed of logs, about 3 1/2 miles northeast of Richland. It was in 1842 and was taught by James McKinney. Richland Township also boasts of having possessed the only successful academy of the county. It was located in the town of Richland and was attended by pupils from all parts of the county. At one time it had in attendance over 200.