IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items
page updated 04/27/2011

The Old Stone House
Post township, Allamakee county

A collection of information & photos
Old Stone House, undated - S. Ferrall collection


Reuben Smith 1807-1881

Reuben Smith
He built and occupied the 'Stone House'

He married Martha Lewis at Louisville, Ky., Dec. 25, 1829, at the age of 23. Twelve children were born to them. They came to what is now Post Township from Vermillion County, Ind. in 1849, and took up a claim on Yellow River. Martha Lewis Smith died Oct. 9, 1862. Both of these real pioneers lie in the Smith cemetery on the hill, just a few rods west of this, their once Earthly home. Reuben Smith laid the foundation for the Stone House in 1853; completed and occupied it in 1856.

Old Stone House, ca1920's
Old Stone House, erected 1856 by Reuben Smith on Highway 51, Waukon, Ia.

Authored by Mabel C. DeWitt from her book of Poems “These I Leave” copyright 1953, 2 poems “The Old Stone House” and “The Stone House County Park”
(It is believed that the poems were reprinted in the Postville Herald after the Old Stone House was vandalized and burned in November 1957).

Mabel Catherine DeWitt was born on June 23, 1873 in Makee Township, Allamakee County, Iowa to Charles and Elizabeth M. (Lane) Jones. On July 1, 1895 she married Carl Cook DeWitt. Mabel died on April 23, 1957 in Waukon, Iowa and is buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Waukon, Iowa.
~contributed by Connie Ellis

by Mabel C. DeWitt

Near the banks of Yellow River, on a farm at Evergreen,
Stands an old familiar landmark many people oft have seen!
Tis a stone house, tall and stately that has seen a better day,
For its windows are now broken and it's falling to decay.
Plaster's gone from walls and ceiling, Holes are worn within the floor,
And there is a panel missing from a weather-beaten door.
But as o'er the place I wander as each vacant room I view;
It is then I sometimes ponder on when the OLD STONE HOUSE was new.

Long ago, so long that now it seems to be almost a myth,
From a far off eastern country, came a man named Rueben Smith.
With him were his wife and children, Pioneers of that early day,
When the bears, the wolves, and Indians oft were met along the way.
Here he built his first log cabin, By the river, built a mill.
There was work for all the family, busy hands were seldom still.
Then he planned a better dwelling and with other workmen too,
After a time of strenuous labor Lo! The OLD STONE HOUSE stood new.

It was indeed a stately mansion For those early pioneer days,
And its host was also noted for his kindly cordial ways.
And the huge great fireplace seemed to hold a friendly glow
For the cold and weary stranger traveling far through ice and snow.
It was the best house in the country. It was known for miles around,
That such grand black walnut woodwork in no other home was found.
And when used for social gatherings Large the crowd it always drew
Of happy laughing friendly people, when the OLD STONE HOUSE was new.

Here, just starting on life's Journey, Some have drawn their life's first breath.
Others, weary of toil and hardships, have quietly closed their eyes in death.
Wedding bells have rung out merrily for many a happy bridal pair;
Then again mid grief and sorrow the funeral dirge has filled the air.
Many a shy and blushing maiden, many a young and gallant beau
In that upper spacious ballroom, stepped to music long ago.
But where now are those same people? Where the friends that once it knew?
That have passed beneath its portals since the OLD STONE HOUSE was new.

Rueben Smith has long departed from this ever fleeting life.
Gone are nearly all his children, gone the mother and the Wife.
On yonder hill a silent city steadily each year has grown
You will find a name familiar carved on many a gleaming stone.
Read the lines and they will tell you of the day which each died,
That, within this quiet graveyard, youth and age lie side by side;
There they lie in solemn silence unmindful of the rain or dew.
They have gone to await the judgement since the OLD STONE HOUSE was new.

by Mabel C. DeWitt

Come now, drop all work and worries, and just turn from them away
Then bring out the family auto for a real good holiday.
Just go where the crowd is going, down among the hills, but Hark!
You stop where the band is playing at the STONE HOUSE COUNTY PARK.

Old folks, young folks, folks for miles around,
Rich folks, poor folks, meet on common ground.
All our friends together just out for a lark,
Come and be one of us at the STONE HOUSE COUNTY PARK.

Here the North and south oft mingle, and the East, too, meets the West
While they entertain each other with music, song, and jest.
Here the one that's called a failure Greets the ones that made their mark.
All are in one social circle, at the STONE HOUSE COUNTY PARK.

So then, come out and meet us, you will surely enjoy the treat;
Just bring along a friend or two and plenty of food to eat.
When you are homeward going though it may be after dark
You will carry pleasant memories from the STONE HOUSE COUNTY PARK.

~the photos of Reuben Smith & the Old Stone House, Hwy 51 accompanied the poems by Mabel DeWitt
~contributed by Connie Ellis


The Old Stone House, 1892
The Old Stone House, 1892


Picnicing at the old stone house, ca1911/12
Picnicing at the Old Stone House, ca1911/12
(larger version of the photo, 163kb, opens in new window)

Photo was taken in 1911 or 1912.
From left to right are Walter Huffey, Tillie Olson, Miss Headington, Lester Davis, Cecil Gordon & Claude Van Vey

Walter Huffey and Tillie Olson married in August of 1912. Lester Davis and Cecil Gordon married in December of 1912. Walter and Cecil were first cousins.

~photo & information contributed by LA


The Historical Marker

An old stone house, completed in 1856, together with its surrounding grounds were made by the board of supervisors into a park and recreation center a few years ago. At the foot of the incline upon which the house stands a spring house protects a spring. The basement of the house was in early days used as a school room. The spring never riled and water was drawn into the house by means of a cable and bucket device. On the mantel over the fireplace these words have been inscribed:

APRIL 29, 1807
DIED AUGUST 28, 1881

He built and occupied the old stone house. He married Martha Lewis of Lewisville, KY., Dec. 25, 1829, at the age of 22. Twelve children were born to them. They came to what is now Post Township from Vermillion Co. Ind. in 1849, and took up a claim on Yellow River. Martha Lewis Smith died Oct. 9, 1862. Both of these real pioneers were buried in the Smith Cemetery on the hill just a few rods west of their once earthly home. Reuben Smith laid the foundation for the stone house in 1853 and completed and occupied it in 1856.

~source: p 109, Some Historic Markers in Iowa, Compiled by Susie Webb Wright, 1943 Iowa City, Iowa. The State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Monograph Series: Number 8
~contributed by Debra Richardson


Hale's Monthy Messenger Magazine

The majority of the readers of this magazine know of the "Old Stone House." But fewer know about it, so perhaps the following data will be of interest.

The history starts in Baltimore, Maryland, with the birth of Reuben Smith in 1807. Sometime later Mr. Smith moved his family to Kentucky. Here the father was the owner of the land now famous as the site of the famous Wind Caves of Kentucky.

Reuben was married in 1829 to Martha Smith Lewis at Louisville, Kentucky. Twenty years later being possessed of money and a pioneer spirit, he set out to establish a homestead in Northern Iowa. In a locality that had just a year before been Indian territory.

When he came into the beautiful valley, where now stands the old stone house, he decided that here should be the future home of the Smiths. Here was fine timber, and abundence of water. The location decided upon one of the first acts of Mr. Smith was to mark the decision by carving his name in the base of a walnut tree, which tree is still remembered by many of our present citizens.

A log cabin was built just across the road from the spring. The return to Kentucky for the family was made the same year. Smith's original tract of land comprised of 1701 acres and was purchased for $25.00 an acre. A grist mill and a stack of pioneer supplies gave activity to Smith Mills, as the place was named. 1853 saw the start of the large stone house and 1857 its completion. The rock used in the construction was hoisted from basement. Mrs. Carter said that Mrs. Reuben Smith laid one part of the wall of the stone house, as good as a mason, as far as she could reach by the help of the children. Walnut logs from valley supplied most of the woodwork. The woodwork and shingles in the stonehouse were thought to have been made by Reuben Smith with the help of Peter Swartze as the lathes have yet to show. They were made by hand.

Other interesting facts about the Old Stone House are as follows:
- It was one time voted for County seat honors.
- The spring at the foot of the hill never riled in stormy weather.
- The fireplaces were the envy of surrounding countryside.
- Water used to be drawn from the spring to the house by means of a cable and bucket device.

A few years ago the Board of Supervisors very wisely decided to make a recreation center of the house and surrounding grounds. Picnic tables were provided, the house repaired and the grounds improved. So that all who chose might find here a beauty spot from which to enjoy the great outdoors.

~source: Hale's Monthy Messenger, data for the article supplied by E.R. Smith, grandson of Reuben Smith; July issue 1928 (note: Hale's was a store in Waukon)
~contributed by Sharyl Ferrall


'Old Stone House' Landmark Near Waukon

A man with pioneer spirit came to Iowa a century ago and built a home for his family in a beautiful valley near here. Today, the "Old Stone House" marks one of Iowa's most picturesque spots.

The man's name was Reuben Smith. Born in Baltimore, he moved westward with his family to Kentucky, where his father owned the area now famous as the site of the Wind Caves. In 1829, at the age of 22, he married a Louisville girl named Martha Leuis. Twenty years later, Reuben Smith set out to establish a home in Iowa, in a locality that had been Indian territory only a year before. He found a valley with an abundance of water and fine timber, and built a log cabin there. During the first year, he returned to Kentucky for his family.

The original tract was 1,700 acres, and cost Smith about $1.25 an acre. A grist mill and stock of pioneer supplies gave activity to Smith Mills, as the place was called. In 1853, the foundation for the large, three-story stone house -- which stands on highway 51 between Postville and Waukon -- was laid. The work was completed three years later. The stone for the walls was hoisted from the basement, and walnut logs from the valley were used for most of the woodwork. The wide window seats and large fireplaces were the envy of the country-side. Twenty-four stone steps led from the ground to the front porch.

There is no record of the original plan for rooms. Today, there are two large rooms on the first floor and a frame addition on the east side of the porch. The third floor, one large room, may have been used for parties and dances at one time. Stove-pipe holes in the chimney indicate that stoves were used for heat in addition to the fireplaces. Household provisions were kept by the family in a house at the foot of the hill, where water from the stream kept the temperature down during hot weather. The spring itself never freezes. Water was conveyed to the large house with a bucket and cable device.

Mrs. Smith died in 1862, and Reuben Smith died in 1881. Both are buried in the cemetery on the hill a few rods west of the Stone House. After the death of the original owners, the property changed hands many times and rapidly fell into a state of decay.

In 1921, the Allamakee county board of supervisors purchased the landmark. The house since has been repaired, the grounds improved, and tables and chairs provided. Today the Old Stone House -- a landmark for nearly a century -- is a popular recreation center for the entire area.

~source: undated clipping - was with clippings of the late 1940's vintage in my g-grandmother's scrapbook
~contributed by Sharyl Ferrall


Newspaper Articles

Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Coates, proprietors of the Stone House Inn, have advanced a proposition to the county board, says the Waukon R. & S., offering to furnish electric current free to light the Old Stone House and the county park grounds, providing the county install the necessary wiring, including a transmission wire across the road from the Inn, where their private lighting plant is located. It is said that the building is already wired. Lighting the grounds would be a great convenience to tourists arriving at the grounds in the evening and the advantages accruing to Mr. and Mrs. Coates from thus keeping the crowds on the grounds until a late hour are very evident. The board has taken no action on the proposition.
~source: undated news clipping
~contributed by Mary Durr
Arch Coates was down in the Stone House locality Monday measuring out the dimensions of the refreshment house he will erect there this summer. The building will be located across the road from the spring house and will be 24 X 34 feet in size, built of tile blocks. Here he will serve Sunday dinners and refreshments for the convenience of picnickers and will run a place that will meet with the favor of the public in every way and may perhaps install some amusement conveniences.
~source: Postville Herald, April 3, 1928
~contributed by Mary Durr


Old Stone House Destroyed By Fire On Friday Evening
(November 1957)

Fire of undetermined origin destroyed the Old Stone House located half way between Postville and Waukon about 9:00 p.m. Friday night.  Fire departments from Waukon and Postville battled the blaze. Authorities are still checking as to the cause of the fire with evidence of vandalism indicated. The old stone house, which was 100 years old this year, is a popular picnic area.  The house is owned by Allamakee county and was restored by the county several years ago and served as a shelter house. The roof and wooden interior of the building were completely destroyed.

~source: clipping from a local paper, November 1, 1957
~contributed by Mary Durr


Old Stone House 1910 - Errin Wilker collection
The Old Stone House
Photo postcard, postmarked 1910
~contributed by Errin Wilker


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