The Town of Fairmount
CHURCHILL, COPLEY, ENYART, HENDERSHOT, HUMMEL, JENNINGS, JOHNSON, KANE, MCREYNOLDS, MEAD, MONTGOMERY, NEARMYER, PORTER, RHOADES, THORTON, VANRYSWYK, VOLK, WALKER
Posted By: JCGS Volunteer
Date: 5/5/2017 at 13:54:33
All thatís left
Digging through the dirt for Fairmount
Editorís note: The following story was written from interviews with Gordon Enyart, Wayne Nearmyer, Clare Copley, Doyle Van Essen and John Nearmyer. Information was also taken from historical books and pamphlets although some information was contradictory.)
Now that the twenty-first century is here, many of us are caught up in the fast-paced society of today and have forgotten the old towns and schools that were once prosperous in Jasper and Marion County and showed much potential of becoming thriving towns. Those towns eventually died out for a number of different reasons and became just a distant memory in the minds of a few. Fairmount was one of those.
John Mead, Austin Montgomery, and Sam McReynolds were the first settlers on the land in about 1862. They arrived from the east looking for a good place to settle, and to them Fairmount was the place. Fairmount was located between Monroe and Prairie City around where Tim Walker lives now. There is nothing left of the town except an old well that was filled in by Steve and John Nearmyer and also the foundation of the elevator.
"Fairmount was even considered for the capitol site of Iowa, but due to the lack of water that idea soon dwindled," said Clare Copley, granddaughter of George Volk.
What was Fairmount like?
"Around the turn of the twentieth century Fairmount, like every other town and its people, had only one well from which everyone drank, there was no electricity, everyone picked corn, by hand, and a trip to Newton only happened once or twice a year before the railroad came along," said Wayne Nearmyer.
Many prominent businesses existed m Fairmount. It once held a cheese factory, a blacksmith, millinery, a grain office, a barbershop, two saloons, a produce house, a depot, grain elevator, two schools, a produce house, two gas stations and a church. Fairmount flourished between the years of 1862-1927; however, it came to an end when Highway 163 was built right through it.
Two gas stations were located in the town, one built by Henry Porter but run by Hank Thorton, and one run by Emmett Johnson. Six gallons of gas could be purchased for one dollar at Thorton's station; however, seven gallons of gas could be purchased for one dollar at Johnson's station.
The highway was one of several reasons for the disappearance of the town along with other factors like water and timber. A fire also contributed to the extinction of the town by destroying the grocery store, although it was rebuilt. Finally, people moved away to seek more opportunities and a better lifestyle.
The general store, owned by George Volk and also Harry Porter at one time, was one of the prominent stores of the town. Inside was also a post office, which received two letters and sent one daily. Only one hundred dollars of postal business was done in 1910.
Wayne Nearmyer and Gordon Enyart described the store as having "a large front with two bay windows, a large door and steps, and a porch where gentlemen sat and talked." Nearmyer said, "On Saturday nights a big crowd gathered at the store and played cards."
Anything that the settlers needed such as clothes, hardware, food, and machinery was sold right at the store so the townspeople did not have to travel to other towns to purchase them. The townspeople could purchase two dozen eggs for 15 cents, 10 pounds of ham for $1.25, brooms for 35 cents, Arbuckle coffee for 25 cents a pound, five and a half pounds of bacon for 55 cents, three cans of oysters for 70 cents, chocolate for 10 cents, nails for 25 cents, along with sugar butter, vinegar, crackers, and molasses which came in from the train. There was special bread, the first commercial bread that was brought in on the train from Des Moines, which was called "everyone's bread."
When the first telephone and refrigeration were put in the store the refrigeration was stored in the back and was an old icehouse. Ice that was used was brought in from the pond. The store burned in 1924 but was later rebuilt and moved to Monroe to be used as the agriculture building at the high school.
In 1877, the Methodist Church at Fairmount was built. The church had a frame and a steeple and the cost to build it was $1,919. Rev. Proctor was one of the first ministers; however, he wasn't the very first and no one is sure who was. As a tradition, every Sunday the minister went to one of the parishioner's house for dinner. Once a month the church held a dinner and the cost was between a quarter and 35 cents.
Christmas time was a time to rejoice, so instead of holding Christmas at their own home, the townspeople held Christmas festivities at the church. Almost everyone from the town bundled up for the long, bitter ride to the church to take part in the activities of the night. As a tradition everyone brought one gift to exchange with another church member.
The church finally came to an end around 1929 or 1930. When the church was dismantled it was taken south of Prairie City to be used as farm buildings. Forest Nearmyer moved the dirt and filled in the basement of the little church.
In 1863, the railroad progressed and became a part of Fairmount. Back then there was a great dedication to growing potatoes and shipping them out on the railroad. Other things such as livestock, lumber, and grain were also shipped away. A two-car passenger train nicknamed the "Tooterville" made a stop to pick up people to take them to Monroe or Prairie City and back for only 10 cents. Every hour it stopped along with the freight train, which went to Des Moines. In 1864, the depot was built on the north side of the tracks on land donated by John Hummel. The depot provided living quarters, a waiting room, and a ticket office. The depot had a telegraph, which was believed to be first run by Austin Montgomery.
On the south side of the tracks was the elevator, built by Jack Porter but run by Harold and Jack Jennings. One unique thing about the elevator was that it was moved from the south side of the tracks to the north side. It was used for filling the railroad cars with corn and oats. Inside were a couple of men to scoop the corn. Spectators of the event said it was quite a sight to see the elevator rolled across the tracks. The elevator burned to the ground somewhere in 1925 or 1926.
Corncribs were later built along the north side of the tracks. They were used for storing corn and then later was shelled and dumped out onto the train. Steam engines and corn shelters helped this progress along. The Kanes were the ones that did this work for the town.
Buck Hendershot was the owner and operator of the stockyards. Hendershot was the one who either moved the livestock to Chicago or purchased them. Hogs that were purchased were sent to Des Moines.
Chickens, eggs, grain, livestock and cheese were handled at the produce house run by Chet Rhoades. Either Rhoades or Jack Porter ran the blacksmith shop.
Little is known about the cheese factory once located on Fairmount ground. All that is known is that it was run and operated by Carl Churchill. Other locations about which little is known are the millinery shop and the creamery. They were located next to the general store, but it is unknown who the operators were.
Students got their education from one of the two schoolhouses even though the schools were not located directly in the town. One schoolhouse was a mile north and the other a mile south. The one to the north was called Capitol Prairie; it most likely got its name because Fairmount was being considered as the capitol site. Fair Prairie was the school to the south. The Capitol Prairie school was later moved and now is being used as a rental home owned by John and Kay VanRyswyk in Monroe.
Baseball was played by many of the guys in the town. A diamond was located right in town on Mary Porter's ground and it even had electric lights for games held at night. It is even said that their pitcher was a traveling salesman that was good enough to play in the major leagues, but he declined because he enjoyed playing on the small Fairmount team.
There was one story in particular that the people of Fairmount still remember to this day. The story goes states that Grant Jennings was called over for jury duty in Newton and while the lawyer was questioning him, he was asked how big Fairmount actually was. His reply was simply, "Sir, Fairmount is just about the size of Newton without Maytag."
Fairmount is only one of many old towns that once flourished in this area. As Enyart said, "I did the research on Fairmount because if no one does it, then no one will ever know."
Key dates in Fairmount history
1862-Fairmount first settled
1868-Railroad comes to Fairmount
1924-First store burns
1925 or 1926-Elevator burns
1929 or 1930 - Church is dismantled
1930 or 1931 Ė Highway 163 built
Source: Monroe Legacy, Thursday, March 16, 2000, page 4
Jasper Documents maintained by Barbara Hug.
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