IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items
updated March 13, 2011

Village Creek Woolen Mill & Factory

A photo of the Village Creek Woolen Mill to add to this page would be much appreciated!

Village Creek Woolen Mill

One of the most important and beneficial manufactories in Allamakee County is the Village Creek Woolen Factory, situated in the town of Milton, four miles distant from Lansing, is a southwesterly direction. We say important and beneficial, for it proves to be so to the wool-grower, the merchant, the mechanic, and all other classes of our citizens. It gives the wool-grower a ready and profitable market for his wool, and encourages him to become more deeply interested in producing a fine quality of wool, knowing that the finer and purer the wool, the more money he puts in his pocket; and besides this, he is not at the mercy of the speculator.

It benefits the merchant for he can now purchase as fair an article of cloth, right at home, at lower prices, than he can in the east, and it leaves him a chance for wider margin on the goods manufactured here than the articles he buys elsewhere.

It benefits the mechanic and all others for the reason that the cloth is a much better and finer quality than most of that which comes from the eastern manufactories, where, as is too often the case, an inferior class of goods is put up and palmed off on western buyers at high prices, and the laboring men, who aim to buy stout, substantial clothing to stand the rough and heavy wear to which they are subject, get sadly bitten by purchasing and paying a large price for a quality of goods which does not, in most instances, last htem much longer than they are having their clothes made up from the worthless fabric.

Mr. H.O. Dayton, a gentleman who had long been a resident of this state, the greater part of the time making this county his home, saw that there was a demand for a manufatory, and was foresighted enough to see the fructifying results which would eventually arise from the erection of an institution of this kind, and suggested his views, in 1864, to some of the best men of our county. He thoroughly canvassed the matter and the result was that in December of that year a company was organized to carry into effect his plans and suggestions. Mr. Dayton knew but very little about the business into which he was about to embark, and before he could decide upon any plan for building it was necessary to visit some other factory and gain a slight insight of the modus operandi of such establishments. Accordingly he made a trip to Beaver DAm, Wis., and made a plan of the buildings, machinery, &c, of the factory at that place, and gained all the information he possibly could about the business. He returned home, and but a brief period elapsed before work was commenced upon the factory building, which was pushed along as speedily as possible, not without some delay, however, as is always the case with such undertakings, until completed, and in February, 1866, the machinery was first put in motion to perform its regular daily labor, and it has continued to this day, giving the utmost satisfaction to all parties connected with it, and paying a handsome dividend to the stock holders, who consider that they have their money judiciously invested.

The demand for the goods manufactured became so great that last year the company was forced to put up another set of machinery, and we venture the assertion that there is not in Iowa this day a woolen factory more complete in every department, or more carefully managed than the Village Creek Factory, and to the untiring energy and zeal of Mr. H.O. Dayton in a great measure is this condition of affairs accredited.

The classes of goods manufactured are flannels, jeans, satinets, tweeds, trico, cassimeres, docskins, blankets and double and twists, cush as tweeds and cassimeres.

At the recent Wool-Growers and Manufacturers Convention held in Chicago, Mr. Dayton had some of the goods manufactured at these Mills, on exhibition, and the Company was awarded a beautiful Diploma for the superior quality and style of the cloth. This is indeed a meritorious compliment and is highly appreciated by the company, more particularly because it came unsought and unexpected.

The amount of wool consumed each year amounts to [illegible] pounds, which averages 40 cents per pound, cash.

The number of yards of cloth turned out daily is about one hundred and fifty, with a force of twenty hands - eight females and twelve males - the salaries of the former ranging from $25 to $30 per month and the latter from $30 to $90.

The officers of the company at present are:

H.O. Dayton, President
James Aldrich, Secretary
F.W. Wagner, Treasurer
Capt. R.D. Ellsworth, Foreman

The Directors are:

E.D. Tisdale, Andrew Sandry, F. Bartheldt and Ole K. Gorder.

The shares are $500 each, and are held by the following named persons:

M. Heiser, 1
J. Aldrich, 5
E.D. Tisdale, 1
F. Bartheldt, 1
J.M. Rose, 1
John Steuber,1
F.W. Wagner, 1/2
Peter Spinner, 1/2
Andrew Sandry, 1
Matthias Englehorn, 1
John Englehorn, 1
Jacob Englehorn, 1
Peter Dieber, 1
Hans Sembly, 1

Ole K. Gorder, 6 1/2
Ole Larsen, 1
Ole Knudtson, 1
W.R. Ballou, 1
Stanley Larsen, 1/2
Ole Christensen, 1
Neils Lageson, 1
Thos. Anderson, 1
Ole Stala, 1
Neils Bottleson, 1
H.O. Dayton, 5
F. Lentz, 1
Ole O. Hunstead, 1
J.O. Estern, 1

The town of Milton is located in the beautiful valley through which flow the pure and limpid waters of Village Creek, and is surrounded by grand and majestic bluffs and hills, whose verdure lends to the town an appearance altogether lovely and picturesque, and the busy hum of the machinery reminds one of the manufacturing villages of the eastern states. That little town is just entering upon a notoriety which will last through coming time, and it is with pride that a citizen of Alamakee County can cite the unacquainted to that little nest of activity within our borders.

Visitors to the factory are courteously received and conducted through the various departments, the uses of this and that machinery understandingly explained, and kindness unlimited shown by the gentlemanly foreman, Capt. Ellsworth, who takes delight in "doing the agreeable".

~Lansing Mirror, September 1, 1868


Fire at Village Creek Mill

A fire near Lansing, Iowa, destroyed the Village Creek woolen mills, owned by Howard, Carroll & Ratcliff. Loss, $30,000, insurance, $4,000.

~Waterloo Courier, May 26, 1875

The Village Creek Woolen Mills were again destroyed by fire a week ago last Friday night. The machinery and stock were a total loss, estimated at $25,000, with only $4,000 insurance. Spontaneous combustion is supposed to have been the cause. The proprietors will rebuild. The walls are not materially injured.

~Postville Review, June 2, 1875


To Be Rebuilt

We are glad to learn that the company owing the Village Creek woollen mill near Lansing in Allamakee county, have decided to rebuild their factory as soon as possible. It will be recollected it was destroyed by fire a few weeks ago, a total loss of $40,000, with no insurance, and very little saved. The company, however, have determined to push ahead, not withstanding their great loss, and work the enterprise through to a successful issue.

~Dubuque Daily Herald, November 26, 1868
~notes: The mill was rebuilt and continued operations until again destroyed by fire in 1875.


Village Creek Mills, Village Creek, Iowa, May 27th, 1875

At the meeting of the citizens of Village Creek and vicinity, held at the school house on the 27th of May, 1875, in regard to the loss of the woolen mills by fire, the following resolutions were passed:
Resolved, that in view of the recent calamity that has befallen our village and Allamakee county in the destruction of the woolen mills by fire, it becomes us to take some action in regard to having them rebuilt, therefore,
Resolved, That the proprietors, Messrs. Howard, Carroll & Ratcliff, have our sympathy in their and our great loss, and
Resolved, That if they will rebuild and resume business, we will endeavor by every legitimate means in our power to raise funds sufficient to enclose the walls and refunish the building ready for the machinery, and will heartily co-operate with their efforts to resume, and
Resolved, That as the calmaity effects the whole county, we invite the co-operation of the citizens of Allamakee Co. generally.

The following named persons were appointed to solicit subscriptions:

W. St. Otis, W. Brownell, James Aldrich, Fred. Batheld & C.L. McNamel of Village Creek
Maritz Knudt, John Thorp & William Erickson of Lansing
St. Guthneck of Harpers Ferry
Wm. Lansebaugh & Hans Smeby of Paint Creek
Jas. Luther of New Albin
J.B.B. Baker of Rossville
John Gilchrist of Union City
T.C. Smith of dorchester
P.G. Wright of Ludlow
Selden Candee of Franklin
J. Lease & H.B. Miner of Linton
George Stoddard, H.O. Dayton & Jas. Erickson of Waukon
Jno. Topliff of Postville

At the close of the meeting there was a call for subscriptions, which was responded to liberally in sums of from ten to seventy five dollars by each person present.

On motion the committee was instructed to furnish the county papers with a copy of these resolutions for publication.
J.W. Grinnell, Chairman
W. Brownell, Secretary

~Postville Review, June 9, 1875


Woolen Mill to Reopen?

There is talk of resuscitating and reopening the Village Creek Woolen Mills. We hope it will be done. What we want in this country is more manufactories to give men employment the year around.

~Postville Review, June 24, 1898


Fate of An Old Mill

An up-to-date farm use is to be made of the crumbling stone walls of an old mill on Village Creek in Allamakee county. The ruins are about to be demolished and the rock fed into a lime crusher to furnish lime for acid soils of the neighborhood farms.

The old mill dates back nearly three-quarters of a century, and was perhaps the first farmer cooperative enterprise in northeastern Iowa. Village Creek is a swift little stream which enters into the Mississippi not far from the Minnesota line. It early attracted millers. Several grist and flour mills were operated for a good many years along its banks. There were many sheep in the hill farms roundabout in those days, and the farmers felt the need of a mill to turn their wool into yarn for the pioneer mothers. So they got together and built a cooperative woolen mill.

The business flourished to such a degree that a wagon was kept on the road gathering wool from the farms, giving the farm women yarn in exchange. No woolen goods were sold except to the farm folks of the region, yet local demand was great enough so that at one time the mill employed 28 helpers. It burnt down once and was rebuilt. Fifty years ago a second fire left only the walls, and the mill never was rebuilt.

Now the old walls of the ancient mill which served the early settlers of Allamakee county well will go back to the earth from which the rock was dug by the settlers, to enrich impoverished soil and make corn land grow more corn in Village Creek farms.

~Fayette County Leader, September 2, 1926
~notes: This article is not entirely accurate. After the second fire in 1875, the mill was rebuilt again and the resumed operations. Sometime after 1882, the factory was closed.

The articles on this page were transcribed for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb by Sharyl Ferrall


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