Midwest-history

7

Marengo, Iowa
Population: 2,528

“The man that I always felt I owed as much, if not more to, than anyone else, was G. W. Williams, commonly called “Gord.” On many a time when I did not have a dollar and did not know where the food for myself and family was to come from, I have gone to Gord and a hint of my situation would prompt him to offer me any amount I wanted, and many a $5 bill did he loan to me, saying, “You can pay it back to me, Cap, whenever you get ready.” -  Judge Milo P. Smith, 1860′s

6

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4

Callender, Iowa
Population: 376

“Between 1866 and 1870 the Des Moines Valley Railroad Company constructed tracks between Des Moines and Fort Dodge. The line went from Keokuk, Iowa—an Iowa town at confluence of Des Moines and Mississippi rivers—through Des Moines, to Fort Dodge. To support the Railroad, several small towns were created by the railroad along the line to support track maintenance and to grow business. At seven to ten mile intervals there were 38 stops between the Keokuk and Fort Dodge. Kesho—town that would become Callender—was stop thirty-six.  

There, Gurmond and Thora Bean had established a store in 1867-1868. The store was operational when the Des Moines Valley Railroad made it to Kesho in December 1869; however, a November 24, 1870 newspaper article from the Iowa Northwest Newspaper reads, “The city has disappeared from the face of the earth—not like Pompeii—but it has gone off on wheels. First the horse barn fell down, then the hotel was taken to pieces and moved off, and lately the depot has been hoisted on wheels, moved 9 miles up the road and landed near the Sioux City Junction (Tara). Kesho is now inhabited by muskrats alone.”

10

Powdertown, Iowa
Population: Unincorporated

“For a time, the DuPont Powder Mills at Powdertown was the largest powder manufacturing operation in the entire world.  All that remains of the old plant now are the ruins of that success. The rail for the trains is just a memory with a few old supports laying where the track once was.  When the plant was in operation, workers had to stop at the front gate guardhouse before their shifts to be checked for metal in their shoes or matches in their pockets.  The site was so volatile that precautions were a necessity.  These precautions didn’t prevent tragedy in full, though, as dozens of men lost their lives working there over the years.  In one case, the police found a pair of legs three miles away dangling in a tree.  The rest of that man’s body was never recovered.

The powder was shipped all over the world in wooden boxes made on site. Because of the cost of importing the blasting powder needed for the coal mines in the area (studies revealed that over 400,000 kegs of blasting powder were utilized each year within a 165 mile radius of Powdertown), the plant was built to provide the explosive powder. In 1890 the DuPont’s Powdertown was completed. On April 17, 1890, the first powder was produced, and by 1901, the plant was the most successful and was already the largest blasting powder site in the United States.”

DISCLAIMER: Powdertown is private property.  Please seek out the owners if you wish to visit it.

8

Clermont, Iowa
Population: 632

“Clermont is a small town in northeast Iowa located in the valley on the banks of the Turkey River, overlooked by Montauk, home of the late Ex-Governor Larrabee.

Tradition establishes Andrew Moates as the first settler, although the time of his coming is somewhat obscure; and it is understood that a man by the name of Delaplaine laid claim to lands where the town of Clermont now stands, and in 1848 built a cabin there.  A year later Carlton and Thompson, a mill firm at Elkader, came to the Turkey at the same point and bought the claim from Delaplaine and erected a saw mill there.  Carlton and Thompson let the building contract to Carlton and Sawyer, who moved here in June 1849 and built two log cabins on what is now block 24 in Clermont, located about 20 rods east of the first saw mill.  These were the first houses in Clermont after Delaplaine’s rude claim cabin, located near the mouth of the Dibble creek.  Mr. Carlton opened the first stock of goods in the fall of 1849.

The township was established by county commissioners in 1850; and the name was fixed by them, although the spelling was then “Claremont.”  In 1850, Edwin Stedman, John Hendershott, and Chancy Leverich with their families, J.B. Hough and Andrew Martin settled in the vicinity of Clermont.  In 1851 the town of Clermont was laid out by John Thompson and C.D. Carlton, proprietors; and here beside the waters of the Turkey River came the Yankees, the Swiss, the Irish, the Swedes, and the Norwegians to settle and cultivate the opulent land. “

3

Ladora, Iowa
Population: 283

“The first dwelling on the site of Ladora was erected by P. J. Rosencrans in 1868. The second building was the old elevator built by the same man. It stood on the south side of the railroad and Rosencrans’ dwelling stood a few rods north. The third building was constructed by Melvin Wigton north of the railroad and used as a store. S. Huston also built a store building early. A depot was put up in the fall of 1869, consisting of one small room.“

8

What Cheer, Iowa
Population: 646

“Robert Forsyth, born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, came to America in 1857, and made his way to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived penniless. He worked for most of a decade as a coal miner before coming to Petersburg, the future What Cheer. In the 1870s, he began buying coal lands around town, mostly on credit. When the railroad came to town, he leased his land to the coal companies and bought into a local drug store, eventually operating stores in What Cheer, Mystic and Jerome, Iowa. Other Scots from the Kilmarnock region (Ayrshire) also settled in the area. Robert Orr came in 1875 after working in the coal mines of Colchester, Illinois. His son Alexander went on a successful career as a mine owner in Mystic.

The Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway (BCR&N) built a 66-mile (106 km) branch to What Cheer in 1879. With the arrival of the railroad, the What Cheer coalfield quickly became one of the most important coal mining centers in Iowa. The Starr Coal Company had over 200 employees and could produce 1,000 tons of coal per day. By 1883, they were operating three mines and took over several others. When, in 1884, the Chicago and North Western Railway built its line through What Cheer to Muchakinock, there was a further expansion of mining in the area.

Local Assembly 1474 of the Knights of Labor was based in What Cheer and had a membership of 65 in 1884. On Oct. 15, 1884, 500 miners in What Cheer went on strike, demanding higher wages. The established wage was 3 cents per bushel, and the miners demanded an additional half cent. The state militia was put on alert, but after 6 weeks, the miners accepted a quarter-cent raise. This strike cut coal production in the What Cheer significantly.

In 1886, the What Cheer Coal Company began to consolidate the local mines, buying up the Starr Coal Company and the Granger Coal Company. In 1887, they employed 1,100 miners, and they continued to operate until 1899. From 1885 to 1901, the Crescent Coal Company was an important local producer.

In 1891, the BCR&N Railroad’s Iowa City Division, serving What Cheer, carried 38,080 tons of coal, by far the most important commodity carried by that line. In 1892, mines along the BCR&N (all of which were in the What Cheer region) loaded 129,316 tons of coal.

On May 1, 1891, the miners of What Cheer and many other mining towns went on strike for the eight-hour day. 1000 men walked off the job in What Cheer, but returned to work defeated on June 16. On August 15, 1896, the miners struck again over several small grievances. The strike lasted 10 to 12 weeks. Local 841 of the United Mine Workers union was organized in What Cheer in 1897, and in 1902, it had 200 members.

The first industrial development in What Cheer was driven by the needs of the coal mines. In 1890, What Cheer was home to three firms making mining drills, Walker & Thompson, Enterprise Manufacturing and the newly formed What Cheer Drill Company. Within the decade, the What Cheer Drill and Miners’ Tool Company was selling equipment in mining districts around the nation. Alexander Walker, originally with Walker & Thompson filed numerous patents on mining equipment, most of which were assigned to the What Cheer Drill and Miners’ Tool Company, later named the What Cheer Tool Company. In 1903, the Starr Manufacturing Company, American Mining Tool Company and the What Cheer Tool Company agreed to a union wage scale with the International Brotherhood of Blacksmiths. At the time, the blacksmiths local 259 had just 17 members.

In 1907, the Volunteer Brick and Tile company was operating its own coal mine to fuel its kilns. The mine had a steam hoist to lift coal 40 feet from a coal seam from 4 to 5 feet thick. The Lea Brothers’ mine in north-central What Cheer also had a steam hoist and still shipped some coal by rail. The remaining mines in the area were all small, using horse-gins to operate their hoists.

By 1909, there were only a few mines left in the county, all producing coal for local consumption in What Cheer. The decline of What Cheer’s mines in the 20th century was reflected in declining union membership. In 1912, Local 841 of the United Mine Workers, based in What Cheer, had only 18 members.”

6

Muscatine, Iowa
Population:  22,886

“From the 1840s to the Civil War, Muscatine had Iowa’s largest black community, consisting of fugitive slaves from the South and free blacks who had migrated from the eastern states. One of the most prominent community leaders was Alexander Clark Sr., a Pennsylvania native, barber and eventually a wealthy timber salesman and real estate speculator. He was among the founders of the local AME Church, assisted fugitive slaves, and petitioned the state government to overturn racist laws before the war. In 1863, Clark helped organize Iowa’s black regiment, the 60th United States Colored Infantry (originally known as the 1st Iowa Infantry, African Descent), though an injury prevented him from serving.

In 1868, he successfully desegregated Iowa’s public schools by suing the Muscatine board after his daughter Susan was turned away from her neighborhood school. Eleven years later, his son Alexander Jr. became the first black graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law and its first black graduate from any department. Clark Sr. went to the college and became its second black graduate five years later, despite being 58 years old, saying that he wanted to serve “as an example to young men of his own race.” Clark rose to prominence in the Republican Party, serving as a delegate to state and national conventions.”

3

Ottumwa, Iowa
Population:  25,023

“In the sitcom Roseanne, Roseanne Connor’s restaurant, the Lanford Lunch Box, was based on the Canteen Lunch in the Alley, in central downtown Ottumwa, which has been a stopping point for Ottumwans since the 1920s. Many famous patrons have been seen eating a “Canteen”, a loose meat sandwich similar to a Maid-Rite.”

4

Barnum, Iowa
Population: 191

“This is the true story of the making and marketing of an invention by two American brothers who grew up on a farm in Iowa, about two miles from where the author grew up. They are credited by many with helping to save the great game of basketball in the last decades of the 20th century, by making an invention for a break-away basketball goal and working to get it into widespread use. Francis B. Francois began his professional career in the U.S. Patent Office in 1956 as a Patent Examiner after graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in engineering. Shortly after moving to Washington, D.C., Frank began attending night law school at The George Washington University. He was the inventors’ patent attorney, and in this book he reveals the fascinating story of how his friends the Estlunds helped save basketball.” - Two Guys From Barnum, Iowa

5

Arlington, Iowa
Population: 429

“In the fall of 1843 the Oatman family located on the prairie northwest of the present site of Arlington and built a house of considerable pretensions for that early day. But their holdings were soon sold to St. John. and seven of the nine members of the Oatman family were murdered by Indians during their attempt to emigrate to California.

A flourishing, incorporated town located in section 28 of Fairfield township, with a population of about eight hundred and fifty. This township has some of the richest and most valuable agricultural land in Iowa. The town was platted in 1856, named Brush Creek and was known by this name until the railroad was built into the place.

When the name of the town was changed to Arlington, R. N. Hibbard, Es., was mayor, and was the leader of the citizens favoring the change of name, which was objected to by some of the older residents and by the officers of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company. Hon. L A. Thompson, being then a member of the Legislature for Fayette county, succeeded in having the law of the state amended so as to compel the railway company to change the name of the station to Arlington. The place for a time was known as Mouton, one Charles Moe being the first white land owner and settler there.“

9

Dunkerton, Iowa
Population: 852

“In 1853, two brothers, James and John Dunkerton, walked from Dubuque, Iowa, to stake out a claim of land near Lester. This claim became the town known as Lesterton, and later Dunkerton. In 1854, John died and was buried in the small cemetery which now holds 4 generations of Dunkertons. James remained and built up his land. In 1855, he married his cousin, Joanne. At 60 years of age, James and his eldest son, sold a portion of their land to the railroad, requesting that the railroad be extended to Iowa. This act enabled the present City of Dunkerton to be established.”

5

Luzerne, Iowa
Population: 96

“Luzerne had a number of serious fires. In 1879 the furniture store burned; in 1887 the Ditzler store, which had been moved from Buckeye, burned; and in 1889 the flour mill was destroyed by flames. The town of Luzerne was incorporated in 1895 and the viaduct was built in 1896.”