Carroll County IAGenWeb

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Fifth Street, looking west

Main Street
Carroll Iowa Feb. 1, 1891: F. W. Stilwill Editor, I would be almost impossible for a person, who had lived his whole life in the old log settled communities of the east, to conceive it to be possible that 30 years ago the ground upon which the splendid town of Carroll now stands, was a bare prairie, with scarcely a sign of civilization in sight. That where these massive brick block's stand, the sod had not even been turned by the pioneer's breaking plow. Such is, nevertheless, a fact, and one that the citizens of this progressive city need not hesitate to feel proud of.
Carroll is located on the North Western railroad 90 miles northwest of Des Moines. and about, the same distance northeast of Council Bluffs. It is located within a mile and a ball of the center of Carroll county, on the Coon river, is the county seat and has a population of about 3300 made up of bright enterprising business men.

Carroll county is one of the best counties in the state. The soil is best suited to the growth of corn, yet a line quality of oats, wheat, and other cereals can be grown. and a yield received sufficient to make it profitable.

Stock raising is becoming one of the leading occupations of Carroll county and the city of Carroll has become quite a stock market.

The land is rolling enough to admit of good drainage without being rough. The farms are all well improved, the buildings commodious and well kept. A stranger driving through the country realizes that he is in a community of thrifty, intelligent and progressive farmers.
Carroll being located in the midst of a county composed of this class of people is in a position that offers encouragement to enterprising business men. and they are taking advantage of it.
The town of Carroll was laid out in August 1867 by the railroad company who were then building the Northwestern road. It was evident to men who were accustomed to close, useful observation that Carroll would be the leading town in Carroll county, and therefore this was the class who settled here and laid the foundation for her present prosperity.

In 1868 the question of moving the county seat from Carrollton to Carroll began to be agitated and in May was decided in favor of the change, by a vote of 88 to 33. This gave the confidence in the future of the town that went far towards the success.

The first man to go into business in the new town was A. L. Kidder who started a general store in the fall of 1868. In a few months others followed and by the close of the year 1869 the population of the county seat of Carroll county numbered 384. From that time up to the present, every year was seen a gradual but steady growth. In the last ten years the increase has been heavier than before, and it is not hard to imagine this as a city of twice its present size by the beginning' of the next century. The following figures will bear ns out in this prediction: Population of 1870—384, 1875-812, 1880—1382, 1885--1885, 1890— 2400, 1897—3300.

Carroll was first incorporated in 1869. The first officers were, mayor, I. N. Griffith: recorder, B. B. Berry: trustees, John W. King, D. Wayne, L. C. Bailey, F. E. Bennett. and Wm. T. Booth: attorney, O. H. Manning.

In 1879 Carroll was visited by a very disastrous fire. It seems to be either the fortune or misfortune of every new town to have an experience of this kind sometime during its early history, and we sometimes think it is a necessary thing, for it is seldom that a start is made towards substantial brick buildings until after the merchants have been taught that it was necessary as a protection to their property. In the above mentioned year the town was nearly all frame buildings and so provisions had been made for fire protection. As a result, a fire that need not have extended further than the building in which it originated, spread like a prairie fire and the best portion of the business part of town was entirely destroyed. The loss was about $200,000, with insurance amounting to less than $35,000. Of course the old story of “locking the barn door after the horse was stolen” was repeated, only in this case better “horses” in the way of good brick buildings were put up. The city government at once took measures to prevent the repetition of the late disaster. A well was sunk in the north part of town and a large windmill and tank erected. Water mains were laid over the town and 12 hydrants were put in, a fire engine purchased and a sufficient amount of hose to make quite a complete fire apartment. About $11,000 was spent in the plant. This supplied the town till 1882, when an experiment was tried, at an expense of $9,000. A steam pump was purchased and an attempt made to pump water from the Coon river. There were also some extensions made in the water mains. After two years trial of this, it was found unsatisfactory and in 1894 two deep wells were sunk and two steam pumps put in which have furnished an abundant supply of excellent water. The water works now represent an expenditure of about $30,000.
There are about five miles of water mains, 26 hydrants, 2 deep wells fitted with high grade steam pumps and a horizontal pump for forcing the water through the mains. During the next year it is expected that a stand pipe will be built and then Carroll will have a system of water works as fine as there is in any town of its size in the state.

The splendid railroad facilities of Carroll soon made it apparent that it would eventually become an excellent distributing point and in 1889 the Lett-Fletcher Wholesale Company of Marshalltown decided to establish a branch at this point. This has developed into one of the best business enterprises of the kind in the western part of the state and Carroll is very proud of it. As a wholesale distributing point for liquor it has taken quite a prominent place there being four wholesale liquor establishments all in flourishing condition at present. During the year of 1892 the city had the greatest growth in its history in way of the public and private improvements. The aggregate of value of these improvements amounting to $300,550.

The buildings were: A normal college, tow new hotels, two categories, two machine shops, two public school building, one electric light plant, heat and power plant, four new business blocks, an extension of the water works and one hundred and ten new dwelling houses.
Like every other town within the borders of this country, Carroll felt the effects of the severe panic of 1893. Many of her most important industries ere still in their infancy and were not firmly enough established to withstand the continued depression hence the shoe factory and knitting factory were compelled to close their doors. But it is a remarkable fact that they were the only business firm of any importance that were forced to the wall. This of itself is as good a recommendation as any town needs as to the stability of its business enterprises. There is one thing that is sure to impress itself upon the stranger who pays his first visit to Carroll. That is the solid substantial manner in which all the latest buildings are constructed and the large number of fine residences in proportion to the size of the town. It tells him at once that these people have confidence in the city and that they have come here to stay. It also shows that the business men need have no fear of their rating by the commercial agencies.

The city has always been blessed with banking facilities that are thoroughly responsible and conducted by men who had the interest of the town at heart and Carroll has never been visited by that terribly paralyzing disaster-- a bank failure.

In the spring of 1892 the people voted to change the city from one of the third class to one of the second class and it is now under a charter of that grade. In the matter of educational facilities Carroll is in the front rank. Care has always been taken to keep the schools up to date in methods and teachers employed who were fully qualified for the positions they were expected to fill. There are two fine school buildings, one in the south part and the other in the north part. The north building has nine rooms and the south has five. They are both built of brick and fitted with all the latest appliances of heat etc.

There are six religious denominations represented in Carroll. The Methodist, Baptist, German Lutheran, Church of God, Presbyterian and Catholic. The Catholics have two churches, the St. Joseph and St. Peter and Paul. The St. Joseph church is one of the finest buildings in his part of the state. It is built entirely of stone and is indeed an imposing edifice.

2/3 of the above sections Transcribed by: Sandra Carter

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